Saturday, 17 September 2011

Return.. and Smith College Information!

After a few weeks of neglect, I have finally come home to my blog! And better yet, I return with good news: my re-submitted chapter was given the stamp of approval by the Head of my Graduate School and the upgrade viva panel meaning that I am officially progressing into second year!

As any perfection-driven person can imagine, this summer has been really challenging. I've had to accept that getting things wrong and being sent back to work on ideas again and again is part of the Ph.D. process. And that regardless of all the feeling of tears, frustrations and negative feelings regarding work, the key part is not giving up. I know that I am a long way from finishing my dissertation but I really do feel that my work is going to be of value and that in order for it to be the best it can be, I have to accept criticism, get over myself and just do the work! On a positive note, as well as gaining a lot more clarity as to the questions my project is going to ask, I feel my supervisor and I are in a good place right now. I am so grateful that he took so much time to help me over the summer. Hopefully my work will start to truly reflect his commitment to me very soon! I'm also very thankful to my brilliant friends who understood when I was too busy to hang out, listened to me rattle on about things they have no interest in and kept me in good supply of Crabbie's Ginger Beer! Some of them read this blog from time to time so I wanted to send out virtual hugs to them all :)



Now that I've updated you all and said my thank yous, I wanted to write about the exciting few weeks I have ahead! This blog will certainly come alive again with a bang!! As of next Wednesday, I will be packing my bags and heading to the USA for just over one month. My mission: to spend as much time as possible at the Sylvia Plath archives at Smith College, MA! I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity (which was funded by the amazing people at the European Association for American Studies) because not only is Smith one of the best Universities for women in the United States, it is a Sylvia Plath fan and scholar's dream!
  • Sylvia Plath attended Smith college as a student from 1950 and graduated summa cum laude in 1955.
  • She kept in touch with many of her tutors and friends from Smith throughout her life.
  • She returned to Smith to teach (after completing her B.A at Cambridge University) in 1957.
The University had a very special place in her heart - I always remember Sylvia writing "I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M A SMITH GIRL!!" in a letter to her mother soon after starting school there. I have to admit, I did run around my house screaming "I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M A SMITH GIRL" out loud when I received the happy news about my funding! I feel so lucky and privileged to have this opportunity.

Personally speaking, I hail from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, Ireland. I'm the first person in my family to go to University. Education has always been important in my house. Neither my mother nor father were able to finish school so they made sure to instill the importance of education to myself and my sister. My background is worlds apart from the typical Smith girl. I look at the alumni list of women who studied there: Sylvia Plath, Betty Friedan, Yolanda King, Margaret Mitchell,... strong, independent and forthright women! And then I think of how insane it is that I will be at the same campus, standing in same places that these women did, I cannot believe it. Already I have imagined myself as a J.D. Salinger-esque character in one of his short stories (Franny Glass, perhaps?) but aside from all that, I just feel so incredibly lucky to follow in Sylvia's steps and hopefully the whole experience will give me the confidence to be like the fabulous women of Smith.

Back to the interesting part - what does Smith have to offer for Plath scholars? The University holds papers and archives from Plath's adulthood (the University of Indiana at Bloomington holds most of her girlhood information), so really it means I will be able to look at - and possibly touch - the poems that shook the very earth I stood on when I was a young teenager. Poems that have grown with me as I have become a young woman. Poetry that just takes my breath away - and that I am truly blessed to be able to study. The archives also hold personal papers, photographs, different versions of texts, correspondences and much more. The curator of the Plath archives is none other than Plath expert, Karen Kukil. Karen edited the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath and is a personal hero of mine. Indeed, having the opportunity to meet her and possibly become friends or at the very least, colleagues is mind-boggling!

I aim to keep this blog updated on as daily a basis as I can during my time at Smith. For even a casual Plath fan, the information and photographs I hope to take will be of great interest! So do follow my twitter and make sure to bookmark this blog for all updates!