The amazon blurb for 'Representing Sylvia Plath' states: This book explores the many layers of her often unreliable and complex representations and the difficult relationship between the reader and her texts. The volume evaluates the historical, familial and cultural sources which Plath drew upon for material: from family photographs, letters and personal history to contemporary literary and cinematic holocaust texts. It examines Plath's creative processes: what she does with materials ranging from Romantic paintings to women's magazine fiction, how she transforms these in multiple drafts and the tools she uses to do this, including her use of colour. Finally the book investigates specific instances when Plath herself becomes the subject matter for other artists, writers, film makers and biographers.
I think this is going to prove a very interesting and worthwhile read, forwarding the thoughts and discussions from another great Plath text: 'Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual. The fact Sally Bayley is on board for both of these raises my expectations!
I really do beleve that right now is the best time to be exploring the life and work of Sylvia Plath. Even casual Plath fans are aware of the stigma attached to her work - the casual dismissing of her poetry as 'crazy' or the complete overlooking of her poetry in favour of her personal life. What scholars like Kathleen Connors, Bayley and Tracy Brain are doing is opening up the whole spectrum in which we view Sylvia Plath. I feel that it is so important to stop looking at the personal elements now and focus on actual materials that can be analysed. The 'Eye Rhymes' book is full of wonderful drawings Plath did in her girlhood, detailing her feelings towards war, art, the role of women and how she viewed herself (the pictures below illustrate this - they are some of Plath's own drawings from her younger days). In analysing these paintings, new conclusions were drawn in 'Eye Rhymes': I can only imagine the same suit will follow in this new publication. 'Representing Sylvia Plath' will be available from 31 August, 2011.
I guess the point of this post is - and this is relevant to even the casual Plath fan - it is important for me to assert my belief that Plath criticism is only now becoming something of substance. So many friends of mine with just a passing interest in Plath have had their brains ruined by ill-informed biographies and can no longer view the poems as anything other than biographical. Although it may seem daunting to perhaps chose a more critically-minded book, if you want to learn more about Sylvia Plath, I would honestly say, choosing something academic rather than biographic is the best bet when it comes to Plath. I aim to make a section of Recommended Academic Plath Books as a sub-section of this blog, but if you require any suggestions at all, don't hesitate to email me:)
While critics, too are very guilty of allowing their personal agendas to hold sway in their work, I believe that biographers are the main perpetrators of this crime. Indeed I feel there is a strong case for argument that Plath's life story has been told and re-told so many times, there really is no place left for a biography. Until the Hughes Trunk at Emory University is opened in 2023, which may or may not hold more Plath information (perhaps the maroon-backed ledgers?) everything to do with Plath, biographically-speaking has been covered.
Sitting here, on the anniversary of her death, I can think of nothing more honourable of a way in acknowledging Sylvia Plath than to throw out all the slurs and allegations and every bit of knowledge you, as reader have, about Plath and her life and relationships. Take the poems and read them. Read them out loud! Let the beautiful words affect you in whatever way you will react to them. And enjoy. Sylvia Plath was a brilliant mind, and she is gone far too soon. But her legacy lives on and every day I learn something new about myself from reading her poems or looking at intelligent interpretation of her work. So in that way, I guess, she lives on. I would urge all other Plath fans to do the same!:)
To finish, here's a list of some other upcoming Plath books:
The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers
And Letters Home has just been released for the Kindle:)