On the 16th of June (Bloomsday and Plath's anniversary), I posted a trivia quiz which, sadly, went unanswered. Therefore, the $2 (£1.00270, €1.26984) cash prize goes to me.
1) Between the Fall of 1948 and August 1949, how many boys did Sylvia Plath date?
E: 99 (the sum of A-D)
F: None of the above
Answer: The answer to question 1 is C, 21. In Plath's 1949 journal, held at the Lilly Library, Plath lists all her dates for posterity. The 1949 journal is the first of its kind; her private thoughts and writing prior to this being more diary-like. Do you know what I mean in differentiating them? For those who have read Plath's early diaries, you will. The 1949 writing seems more sophisticated and and deeper. This is when Plath wrote her now famous statement: "I think I would like to call myself 'the girl that wanted to be God.'"
2) True or False:
Prior to Sylvia Plath's breakdown and suicide attempt in 1953 and the subsequent therapy - which continued in person through 1959 - she had a decent opinion about her childhood? Please support your answer with a compelling statement or argument.
Answer: The answer two question 2 is far more subjective. But I think the answer would be true, Plath did have a good opinion of her childhood prior to the bad effects of psychotherapy. Plath's later poetry really does turn against her parents; but is it necessarily justified? A full examination of Plath's life is necessary, but I encourage readers to not ignore the materials from Plath's childhood. Taken in the context of her life during the time, I think the young Sylvia Plath coped quite well with being fatherless. She had a mother, brother, and grandparents in close proximity to her who always, always gave her the love and attention she needed. I think the therapy Plath underwent through the 1950s did more to distort the truth than to reveal it.
Again, it would benefit your opinion on the matter if you've read through Plath's 1940s era letters, journals, and scrapbooks. This was the World War II era, so times were tough...there was rationing, and this was a period when women routinely had to work as the men were off fighting.
And as for Otto being a controlling, domineering figure in Plath's life - I suspect this may be a usurpation (à la "The Disquieting Muses") of another's feelings and experiences. Once Plath was old enough for walking, talking, and then writing, Otto Plath was far too ill, I think, to have been such a figure as is previously portrayed. But, if we remember, Aurelia Plath did much of the research and organization for Otto Plath's Bumbleebees and Their Ways and was barely acknowledged for her effort. I suspect Aurelia Plath may have harbored anger and frustration towards Otto, but the young Sylvia did appear to love and admire the man.
There is more so say on the subject; if anyone else would care to weigh in (anonymously or not).
Publications & Acknowledgements
- BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
- Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
- Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
- Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
- Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
- Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
- Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
- Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
- Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
- Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
- Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
- Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. 2000. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books. (Acknowledged in)
- Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
- Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
- Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
- Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
- "Banking on his passion for Plath" by Melissa Davis Haller. UMW Today. Spring 2005.
- "Sylvia Plath's Three Women to be staged in London" by Alison Flood. The Guardian. 3 December 2008.
- "FBI files on Sylvia Plath's father shed new light on poet" by Dalya Alberge. The Guardian. 17 August 2012.
- "There Are Almost No Obituaries for Sylvia Plath" by Ashley Fetters. The Atlantic. 11 February 2013.