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Since her death in 1963 at the age of thirty Sylvia Plath has become a strange icon an object of intense speculation fantasy repulsion and desire Jacueline Rose stands back from the debates and looks instead at the swirl of controversy recognizing it as a phenomenon in itself one with much to tell us about how a culture selects and judges writers; how we hear women's voices; and how we receive messages from to and about our unconscious selves


10 thoughts on “The Haunting of Sylvia Plath (Convergences: Inventories of the Present)

  1. says:

    This is almost certainly the best book I've ever read on Plath; also possibly the most difficult one It's difficult to classify as Rose integrates lit crit with a great deal of metacriticism on the iconography the fantasia as T Hughes calls it and a phrase Rose lifts from him for this text enveloping Plath It's not a biography as Rose has no particular interest in the 'facts' of the life though one might say it's still powerfully invested in the idea of narrating Plath's life Rose seems to be something of a psychoanalytic critic though her logic works far deconstructively than I usually expect in Plath critics with a psychoanalytical bent this is very good because though she certainly discusses structures of fantasy and desire she's also very capable of considering these in a discursive and not pathologizing fashion She's unflinching when it comes to discussing those who have claimed the 'right' of talking about Plath Anne Stevenson David Holbrook Ted Olwyn Hughes but also enables us to think about WHY the 'talk' about Plath has had such a fractured history why Plath the Marilyn Monroe of the literati allegorizes broader reaching cultural anxieties around feminism sexuality violence and desire for violence cocoI could go on and on perhaps will at a later date upon a thorough re reading I had to move uickly through it this time as I was trying to use it for a paper with a uick turnaround nevertheless this is absolutely reuired reading for any serious Plath scholars Probably for anyone interested in the uestion of female icons morbid celebrity fascinations and the transitions in these conceptions of women in the public eye in the post war period but I doubt some of the psychoanalytic discussions will be as useful for those less invested in Plath who to my mind has been so destroyed by psychoanalysis and biographical readings with foundations in that discourse It is a challenging read but of the four jesus I should get another hobby? books on Plath I've read so far this year and of the ones I've read in the past this was by far the most influential in my own work Or at least it definitely feels that way now Read also Narbeshuber's Confessing Cultures if you like this one


  2. says:

    U potpunosti mi se uklapa Silvijina Groznica 41 uz čitanje ove knjige na ovoj temperaturi


  3. says:

    Though published in 1991 Jacueline Rose's masterpiece still remains the finest analysis of Sylvia Plath's legacy to date Rose examines the principal themes of Plath's poetry and prose which naturally entails a review of Plath's critics and biographers as well as a discussion of the notorious editorial judgments and copyright licensing positions taken by her husband the poet Ted Hughes and his sister Olwyn In the process Rose also delves into the uestion of the role of biography in literary analysis and whether the work can be appropriately safeguarded when it directly affects and even infringes the privacy concerns of others Because we can never know what Plath's inner life was really like Rose argues against critical interpretations that primarily treat Plath's work as an extension of biographical matter gleaned from her journals correspondence and the memorialized oral accounts of family friends and acuaintances But Rose's critiue which incorporates metacritical psychoanalytical and deconstructive viewpoints also affirms the value of biography as an indispensable piece of the puzzle and one means of accessing the multiple levels on which her poetry in particular exists Of note the writing and publication of Rose's study led to a daunting confrontation with Hughes and his sister recounted in the 1991 and 1995 Prefaces over their own invested views of Plath's life and their unconcealed efforts to steer public scrutiny away from Hughes and push alternative narratives of Plath This was done according to Hughes in the interest of protecting his children from public oblouy over Plath's mental illness and suicide In concert with these goals Hughes elected to destroy Plath's journals from the last three years of her life and selectively redact portions of the surviving journals and correspondence as well as significantly edit Ariel all of which irremediably influenced public perceptions to the detriment of Plath's personal reputation and her work conseuently impairing the scholarship to come Unabridged versions of the surviving journals were finally published in late 2000 and a definitive edition of Plath's complete correspondence is being published in two volumes respectively in 2017 and 2018 A discussion of the difficulty of weaning critical perceptions from the misleading narrative promoted by Hughes may be found in Tracy Brain's The Other Sylvia Plath The use of Plath's copyright to boldly compel critics and biographers to follow a Hughes directed narrative is covered at length in the chapter entitled The Archive and makes for one of the interesting behind the book stories in the history of literature Rose's account of Olwyn Hughes's conduct especially is unuestionably accurate given similar experiences independently reported by Judith Kroll Anne Stevenson Lynda Bundtzen and Janet Malcolm among others whose valor must be invariably measured by the respective degrees of their conscientious resistance Though Ted Hughes's ardent pleas for privacy chiefly he said to protect his children had legitimate purposes Rose argues that the publication of Plath's private papers uneuivocally invited the invasive exploration of critics and biographers that he could have otherwise avoided Plath doubtlessly would have felt violated and shamed by the way her poetry and prose works have been viewed in the half light of her private journals and personal correspondence The journals featured notoriously conflicted autobiographical entries and the letters to Aurelia Plath were admittedly designed as sugar coated glosses on Plath’s actual life Rose trenchantly observes that the Estate’s efforts to edit and redact these documents on the grounds that they violated privacy and good taste instead revealed that Plath’s own viewpoint was being tortuously silenced Certainly the justifiable uestioning of Hughes's editorial prudence and suspect motives especially considering his dubious personal conduct and self righteous rhetoric will probably never abateFollowing this line of inuiry Rose raises the fundamental uestion of whether and how reliable textual analysis can be undertaken when the work has been adulterated or obscured by its caretakers the copyright holders who have personal stakes at risk This perforce implicates Hughes's contention that he as the administrator of Plath's estate had the right to control access to and the interpretation of her work principally because her living relatives viz her children her mother and Hughes himself and their rights to privacy are compromised by it Though Hughes died in 1998 his position remains an intriguing problem that is relevant to all future scholarship Further as if there weren't enough irony afoot the libel case against the producers of the film version of The Bell Jar demonstrates how privacy concerns have broader implications beyond the private lives of Plath's immediate family This ironically had the effect of reducing the fictional and creative aspects of Plath’s work to mere autobiographical transcription of the “confessional” genre according to ML Rosenthal’s analysis No matter how surreal Plath’s flights of fancy everyone keeps looking for the roman à clef thereby depriving the work of its larger purposesThe sensational speculations that no critic and biographer can apparently avoid labeled the myth of Sylvia Plath by Hughes and his sister naturally flow from the story of a brilliant young woman's battle with mental illness her marriage to the most promising young poet of his time her struggle for recognition in a historically male dominated profession and her ultimate suicide following her estrangement from Hughes Its cosmic irony was inflamed by the public acclaim that followed the US publication of The Bell Jar and Ariel and its tabloid credentials were stoked to hellish white by the checkered personal history of Hughes himself whose adulterous relationship with Assia Wevill likely precipitated Plath's downward spiral and whose personal reputation was further compromised by Wevill’s own death killing herself and the couple’s infant daughter It is a story as Rose says that seems to have the power to draw everybody who approaches it into its orbit to make you feel that somehow you belong But it challenges us to uestion how much intrusive inuiry is warranted in the service of art and attendant scholarship especially where mental illness is a stalking ghost and whether such an investigation of the author's life threatens our perceptions of the art altogether Where editorial decisions were made by Hughes his judgments clearly pitted the shifting perspectives of the truth about his relationship to Plath against the interpretative ambiguities of words that were made to serve other masters Rose convincingly argues that the wholeness of a literary work should never be sacrificed; but to her credit she fairly examines all facets of the arguments for and against with great sensitivity To the extent that Rose's approach may be labeled feminist it is one that is wholly defensible in light of the way Plath's male critics for the most part have apprehended her work and life In the first chapter of her book entitled She Rose evaluates the masculine bias that initially confronted Plath's work whether from the mouths of critics like Hugh Kenner and Richard Howard biographer Edward Butscher A Alvarez a personal friend and confidant and even notable female poet and novelist Joyce Carol Oates Rose shows through a discerning examination of the critical language itself how this animus may be traced to the predominantly male lens of our culture which Plath challenged with poems like Lady Lazarus and Daddy Because Plath threatened the hegemony of that male image which even today fosters a view of itself as protector and keeper of the higher forms of art she was and is typically relegated to a lower order a good or minor but by no means major poet Therefore the uestion of Plath's ascendance is a political as well as aesthetic uestion Notably Rose eschews a programmatic disusition such as Judith Kroll's Chapters in a Mythology which though first to attempt a comprehensive analysis of Plath's poetry reading it principally through the twin lenses of Robert Graves' The White Goodess and Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough failed to account for Plath's own conflicted perceptions as they are reflected in her work Rose's readings by contrast are subtle and complex exhibiting and uestioning the work from a myriad of angles often through Freudian and Jungian models while admitting that there is no Rosetta Stone by which the works taken together may be easily translated because of the multiplicity of representations that Plath offers of herself That Plath was keenly aware of these complexities is evidenced by cross reading her journals against her correspondence and work Rose does not attempt an exhaustive examination of Plath's poems ad seriatim choosing rather to support her observations with surgical application of examples from the poems and prose though in depth discussions of particular poems ensue where necessary to a deeper analysis of her propositions Self defeating however is Rose's misadventure into a psychological analysis of Plath as artist in Chapter 2 The Body of the Writing just the thing that CG Jung said must not be done in On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry “the uestion of aetiology in medicine is uite out of place in dealing with a work of art just because a work of art is not a human being but is something supra personal Indeed the special significance of a true work of art resides in the fact that it has escaped from the limitations of the personal and has soared beyond the personal concerns of its creator” Which means the truth of a given poem is suspect in the way every poem is a language game and hence does not traffic in utilitarian statements of fact Therefore Rose's analyses of individual poems particularly in the chapter No Fantasy Without Protest are an exhibition of erudition and much less a penetrating literary critiue as readings such poems as The Rabbit Catcher Fever 103º and Getting There founder because the resultant interpretations are meant to serve certain masters and ignore others which is to also say that for example a greater understanding of Julia Kristeva's theory of abjection as applied to specific writings can only begin and end in rank speculation or that noting a journal entry when Plath was 17 years old may not be the best way to gain insight into a poem written than ten years later Using her psychoanalytical approach Rose inevitably binds herself to biographically tinged readings almost wholly ignoring Plath's tonal sarcasm and irony for the most part I think Rose makes a good case for reading the late poems in dialogue with each other but the same thing could be said about poems written before then as Plath freuently wrote poems that appeared to respond to earlier work Rose does provide an impressive treatment of Daddy in the final chapter which presents a brilliant defense of Plath's controversial use of Holocaust imagery and a provocative deliberation on Plath's most incendiary line Every woman adores a Fascist The boot in the face with all its sado masochistic implications Though Rose's application of psychoanalytic theory does get wonkish at times and though her examination too often circles back to the same points and conclusions the prolific scholarship and intellectual acumen brought to bear on the subject matter is all that could be desired If you are going to read only one critical perspective on Sylvia Plath's work this is it


  4. says:

    The muscularity with which Rose debunks the wealth of biographical writing tripe that clutters criticism of Plath's work is exceptionally helpful for any reader interested in acuiring insight into the historical trajectory of feminist and psychoanalytical approaches to the poet A must read for any Plath scholar


  5. says:

    The Haunting of Sylvia Plath is one of the best works of literary criticism I've read Rose creates a narrative of her own journey through the works about Plath while illuminating the shortcomings of how Plath has been received critically and biographically