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The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath
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Sylvia Plath is widely recognized as one of the leading figures in twentieth-century Anglo-American literature and culture. Her work has constantly remained in print in the UK and US (and in numerous translated editions) since the appearance of her first collection in 1960. Plath's own writing has been supplemented over the decades by a wealth of critical and biographical material. The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath provides an authoritative and comprehensive guide to the poetry, prose and autobiographical writings of Sylvia Plath. It offers a critical overview of key readings, debates and issues from almost fifty years of Plath scholarship, draws attention to the historical, literary, national and gender contexts which frame her writing and presents informed and attentive readings of her own work. This accessibly written book will be of great use to students beginning their explorations of this important writer.

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Further reading
Further reading
Primary sources
Plath, Sylvia. Ariel. London: Faber and Faber, 1965; New York: Harper & Row, 1966.
Plath, Sylvia, Ariel: The Restored Edition, ed. Frieda, Hughes. London: Faber and Faber, 2004.
Plath, Sylvia, The Bell Jar. London: Heinemann, 1963 (under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas); London: Faber and Faber, 1966; New York: Harper & Row, 1971 (as Sylvia Plath).
Plath, Sylvia, Collected Poems, ed. Ted, Hughes. London: Faber and Faber; New York: Harper & Row, 1981.
Plath, Sylvia, The Colossus and Other Poems. London: Heinemann, 1960; New York: Knopf, 1962.
Plath, Sylvia, Crossing the Water. London: Faber and Faber; New York: Harper & Row, 1971.
Plath, Sylvia, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams. London: Faber and Faber, 1977; New York: Harper & Row, 1979.
Plath, Sylvia, The Journals of Sylvia Plath, ed. Ted, Hughes and Frances, McCullough. New York: Dial, 1982 (abridged edition).
Plath, Sylvia, The Journals of Sylvia Plath: 1950–1962, ed. Karen, V. Kukil. London: Faber and Faber, 2000. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. New York: Anchor, 2000.
Plath, Sylvia, Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963, ed. Aurelia, Plath. New York: Harper & Row, 1975; London: Faber and Faber, 1976.
Plath, Sylvia, Winter Trees. London: Faber and Faber, 1971; New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
Cameron, Northouse and Thomas, P. Walsh. Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton: A Reference Guide. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1974.
Stephen, Tabor. Sylvia Plath: An Analytical Bibliography. Westport, CT: Meckler; London: Mansell, 1987.
Sheryl, Meyering. Sylvia Plath: A Reference Guide, 1973–1988. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1990.
Secondary sources
Aird, Eileen. Sylvia Plath: Her Life and Work. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. Concise survey of individual volumes; predates the publication of The Journals and Letters Home.
Alexander, Paul. Ariel Ascending: Writings about Sylvia Plath. New York: Harper & Row, 1985. Collection of essays and memoirs by, among others, Ted Hughes, Anne Sexton and Elizabeth Hardwick. Includes Aurelia Plath's ‘Letter Written in the Actuality of Spring’.
Alexander, Paul (ed.). Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath. New York: Viking, 1991. (Revised edition, New York: Da Capo Press, 1999.) Reading of Plath's life and work which makes valuable use of archives and interviews but remains preoccupied with the nature of her death.
Alvarez, Al. Beyond All This Fiddle: Essays 1955–1967. London: Allen Lane, 1968. Contains the defining essay on the confessional mode of poetry.
Alvarez, AlThe Savage God: A Study of Suicide. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1971; New York: Random House, 1972. Includes Alvarez's contentious account of Plath's last days.
Annas, Pamela J.A Disturbance in Mirrors: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988. Perceptive reading of the poetry, focusing on motifs of mirroring and relating these to questions of identity and history.
Axelrod, Steven Gould. Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. Thorough, engaging and informed reading of the work drawing attention to literary and psychoanalytical contexts.
Bassnett, Susan. Sylvia Plath: An Introduction to the Poetry, second edition. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Useful overview; recently updated to suggest connections with Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters.
Bennett, Paula. My Life a Loaded Gun: Dickinson, Plath, Rich and Female Creativity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986. Engaging feminist critique of Plath's aesthetics.
Bloom, Harold (ed.). Modern Critical Views: Sylvia Plath. New York and Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989. Collection of critical assessments.
Brain, Tracy. The Other Sylvia Plath. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2001. Influential rereading of Plath in the light of transatlantic and environmental debates; makes extensive use of archival resources.
Brennan, Claire. The Poetry of Sylvia Plath: A Reader's Guide to Essential Criticism. Cambridge: Icon, 2000. Critical compendium of Plath criticism which reproduces and evaluates extracts from a range of scholarly sources.
Britzolakis, Christina. Sylvia Plath and the Theatre of Mourning. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999. Sophisticated psychoanalytical reading which draws attention to notions of loss, trauma, melancholia and performance.
Broe, Mary Lynn. Protean Poetic: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. London and Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1980. Careful assessment of the development of Plath's work in terms of key themes and forms.
Bronfen, Elisabeth. Sylvia Plath (British Council Writers and their Work series). Plymouth: Northcote House, 1998. Brief but densely argued study which draws on psychoanalytical and poststructuralist theories.
Bundtzen, Lynda K.Plath's Incarnations: Woman and the Creative Process. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983. Draws attention to Plath's poetic processes specifically as they encompass the imaginative, the linguistic and the material.
Bundtzen, Lynda K.The Other Ariel. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001. Published before the publication of Ariel: The Restored Edition; traces hitherto hidden associations between the text as originally published and archival drafts.
Butscher, Edward. Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness. New York: Seabury Press, 1976. Early biography offering some rudimentary psychoanalytical readings.
Butscher, Edward. (ed.). Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977. Collection of early critical views. Includes contributions by teachers and friends from England and the USA, and essays by Marjorie Perloff and Irving Howe.
Connors, Kathleen and Bayley, Sally (eds.). Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Selection of essays focusing on Plath's artistic interests.
Cox, C. B. and Jones, A. R.. ‘After the Tranquillized Fifties: Notes on Sylvia Plath and James Baldwin’. Critical Quarterly 6.2 (1964), 107–22. One of the first critical essays to read Plath in the context of the nascent confessional mode of poetry.
Curry, Renée R.White Women Writing White: H. D., Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath and Whiteness. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. Thought-provoking account of representations of whiteness in Plath and other modern white women poets.
Ford, Karen Jackson. Gender and the Poetics of Excess: Moments of Brocade. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1997. Original and persuasive reading of the ‘aesthetics of excess’ in Plath and other contemporary writers.
Gill, Jo (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Recent collection of original critical essays on Plath's life, work and contexts. Includes contributions by Susan Van Dyne, Deborah Nelson, Lynda K. Bundtzen, Steven Gould Axelrod and Diane Middlebrook, among others.
Helle, Anita (ed.). The Unravelling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. New collection of essays on Plath, many drawing on recent archival scholarship.
Hughes, Ted. ‘The Art of Poetry LXXI’. Paris Review 134 (1995), 54–94. Includes useful comments on Plath's work and on Hughes's role as her editor.
Hughes, Ted Letters of Ted Hughes, ed. Reid, Christopher. London: Faber and Faber, 2007. A selection of Hughes's letters spanning five decades. Includes letters to Sylvia and Aurelia Plath.
Hughes, TedNotes on the Chronological Order of Sylvia Plath's Poems’. Tri-Quarterly 7 (1966), 81–8. Valuable overview of the background to key texts.
Hughes, Ted Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose, ed. William, Scammell. London: Faber and Faber, 1994. Reprints important essays on and introductions to Plath's work.
Kaplan, Cora (ed.). Salt and Bitter and Good: Three Centuries of English and American Women Poets. London and New York: Paddington Press, 1975. Early anthology setting Plath's writing in the context of a tradition of women's poetry.
Kendall, Tim. Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study. London: Faber and Faber, 2001. Thorough and perceptive close readings of Plath's work.
Kroll, Judith. Chapters in a Mythology: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. London and New York: Harper & Row, 1976. Early study emphasising Plath's debt to Robert Graves, Sir James Frazer and others.
Lane, Gary (ed.). Sylvia Plath: New Views on the Poetry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979. Collection of essays, memoirs and critiques. Includes Marjorie Perloff's essay on the voices of Plath's poems and Letters Home.
Lowell, Robert. ‘Sylvia Plath's Ariel’ (1966). Rpr. in Robert, Giroux (ed.), Collected Prose. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987. Lowell's original introduction to the 1966 US edition of Ariel.
Macpherson, Pat. Reflecting on The Bell Jar. London: Routledge, 1991. Excellent survey of the novel; especially good on its structure and relation to contemporary American culture.
Malcolm, Janet. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. New York: Knopf, 1993; London: Picador, 1994. Indispensable overview of the contested history of Plath biography.
Middlebrook, Diane. Her Husband: Hughes and Plath – A Marriage. New York: Viking, 2003. Comprehensive and accessible account of the writing relationship between Plath and Hughes. Makes extensive use of the Hughes archive at Emory University.
Nelson, Deborah. Pursuing Privacy in Cold War America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Influential study of Cold War literature and culture.
Newman, Charles (ed.). The Art of Sylvia Plath: A Symposium. London: Faber and Faber, 1970; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970. Early and wide-ranging collection of anecdotes and critical responses.
Orr, Peter (ed.). The Poet Speaks: Interviews with Contemporary Poets (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966). Reproduces Plath's 1962 BBC interview.
Ostriker, Alicia. Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America. Boston: Beacon, 1986; London: Women's Press, 1987. Important feminist reading of Plath's life, work and significance to the contemporary women's movement.
Peel, Robin. Writing Back: Sylvia Plath and Cold War Politics. London: Associated University Presses; Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002. Close analysis of Plath's engagement with contemporary politics, identifying specific links between historical events and literary texts.
Rees-Jones, Deryn. Consorting with Angels: Essays on Modern Women Poets.Tarset, Northumberland: Bloodaxe, 2005. Perceptive reading of Plath's poetics usefully informed by current psychoanalytical, poststructuralist and feminist thought.
Rose, Jacqueline. The Haunting of Sylvia Plath. London: Virago, 1991. Influential and sophisticated psychoanalytical reading of Plath's place in contemporary culture.
Rose, JacquelineOn Not Being Able to Sleep: Psychoanalysis and the Modern World. London: Chatto & Windus, 2003. Contains later reflections on the process of writing The Haunting of Sylvia Plath.
Rosenthal, M. L.The New Poets: American and British Poetry Since World War II. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. Critical survey of mid-century poetry. Defines and critiques the confessional mode.
Saldívar, Toni. Sylvia Plath: Confessing the Fictive Self. New York: Peter Lang, 1992. Reads Plath in terms of debates about subjectivity and confession. Has a useful chapter on the Juvenilia.
Smith, Stan. Inviolable Voice: History and Twentieth-Century Poetry. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1982. Studies Plath alongside other modern poets and in terms of her engagement with historical and political concerns.
Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. London: Viking; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. (Paperback edition, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990.) Comprehensive biography written with the cooperation of the Estate and consequently provoking much debate about neutrality and influence.
Strangeways, Al. Sylvia Plath: The Shaping of Shadows. London: Associated University Press, 1998. Draws together psychoanalytical and political perspectives on Plath's work. Includes useful selected list of Plath's library.
Uroff, Margaret Dickie. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979. One of the first accounts to read the poetry of Plath and Hughes in terms of its mutual influence.
VanDyne, Susan Dyne, Susan. Revising Life: Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poems. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993. Focuses on Plath's repeated revisions of her poetry. Reproduces and studies a selection of Plath's working drafts.
Vendler, Helen Hennessy. Coming of Age as a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. Identifies defining moments in the work of a range of poets.
Wagner-Martin, Linda. The Bell Jar: A Novel of the Fifties. New York: Twayne/Macmillan, 1992. Useful critical assessment attuned to contemporary culture and gender politics.
Wagner-Martin, LindaSylvia Plath: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987; London: Chatto & Windus, 1988. (Paperback edition, London: Sphere, 1990.) Sympathetic, feminist-inflected reading of Plath's life.
Wagner-Martin, Linda (ed.). Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage. London and New York: Routledge, 1988. Comprehensive collection of reviews and responses covering Plath's oeuvre to the Collected Poems and abridged edition of the Journals.


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