Today’s post is going to be another instalment of my “Spotlight On:…” series, which still remains my favourite blog post to write each month.
This month’s post is going to focus on the life of Sylvia Plath. I recently just placed an order for The Bell Jar, which I have never read. So I thought this month would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the author before jumping into her books.
As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:
1. A little bit about their life
2. Their works I have read
3. Their works I am yet to read
4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works
6. An author biography recommendation
So without further ado…
A Little Bit About Their Life
Sylvia Plath was born on 27th October 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Aurelia Schober was a master’s student at Boston University which was where she met Plath’s father, Otto Plath, who was her professor who taught both biology and German.
In 1940, Plath’s father died from complications as a result of diabetes. Her relationship with her father defined a large portion of her life; he was a strict father and had an authoritarian style of parenting. She wrote about his death and their relationship in her poem, Daddy.
Plath kept a journal which she wrote in every day. She sold her first poem to The Christian Science Monitor in 1950, and her first short story to Seventeen magazine. Plath won a scholarship to Smith College in 1950 to study English. Whilst she was a student, Plath spent her time in New York City and worked during the summer of 1953 as a guest editor for Mademoiselle magazine. Plath tried to kill herself by taking sleeping pills. She received treatment during a stay at a mental health facaility and she returned to Smith College to finish her degree in 1955.
After graduation, Plath moved to Cambridge, England where she studied at the university on a Fulbright Scholarship. Whilst studying, she met the poet Ted Hughes. The two were married in 1956. Plath returned to Massachusetts in 1957 and began studying with Robert Lowell. She released her first collection of poetry, Colossus, in 1960. She also spent time teaching English at Smith College. Plath returned to England in 1959 and gave birth to her two children, Frieda and Nicholas, in 1960 and 1962 respectively. Unfortunately, their marriage was falling apart and in 1962, Ted Hughes left Sylvia Plath for Assia Gutmann Wevill. That winter, Plath wrote most of her poems that would make up her most famous collection, Ariel.
Plath fell into depression and wrote her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel was based on her own life and deals with the mental breakdown of a young woman. Plath committed suicide on 11th February, 1963. She died from carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of thirty.
Much to the dismay of her admirers, Ted Hughes became her literary executor after her death. Despite the controversy, he did edit what is considered by many to be her greatest work, Ariel. He continued to produce new collections of Plath’s work and Plath work the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for Collected Poems. She was the firt poet to win this prize posthumously. Despite her short life, she is still highly regarded as one of the greatest poets and is much-studied to this day.
Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet To Read
I have not yet read any of Sylvia Plath’s work. As I mentioned in the introduction, I have just ordered The Bell Jar and am excited for it to arrive. I have always been interested in her life and everything she went through and writing her biography above has made me even more interested to read her poetry; to try and get an idea of what was going on in her life and the emotions she felt and what she went through.
Great Film/TV Adaptations of Their Work
I haven’t seen it, but the film Sylvia (2003) starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig is based on her life. I would be interested in watching this to learn more about her. There was also supposed to be an adaptation of The Bell Jar directed by Kirsten Dunst, however I haven’t heard any more about this and when to expect it.
“I like people too much or not at all. I’ve got to go down deep, to fall into people, to really know them.”
“Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”
“I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between.”
“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.”
An Author Biography Recommendation
If you want to learn more about the life of Sylvia Plath, I would recommend reading all her poetry collections, as well as The Bell Jar as these can definitely be seen as semi-autobiographical and tell us a lot about her life. I would also recommend The Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.
Have you read any of Sylvia Plath’s works?
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë x