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Lecture 11

ENGL 3550 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Sylvia Plath, Fulbright Program, Bell Jar


Department
English
Course Code
ENGL 3550
Professor
Christine Bold
Lecture
11

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ENGL 3550
Feb 28, 2017
The Invisible Man
- Lectures online
Sylvia Plath
From Invisible Man to “Lady Lazarus” and The Bell Jar
- From invisible man to visible woman
o Part of challenge he is not seen
Ignored
o Vs. Plath - Too exposed
May not be seeing who she really is, but feels exposed and on show
o Trauma associated with being seen in the world
- From boomerang to bell jar
- Structure of novel imitating the boomerang
o What goes around, comes around
o In bell jar equivalent image is bell jar itself
Being trapped in bell jar
To preserve something by depriving it of oxygen
- Ellison’s first person narrator: “Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for
you? (581)
- Plaths 1st person narrator: “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead
baby, the world itself is the bad dream” (250, ch20)
o Both 1st person narrators are both deeply preoccupied with individual trauma in
world, but also see their trauma telling something about the larger pain in the
world
Sylvia Plath: some biography
- Echoes between Sylvia and Esther the character
o Bell jar is not an autobiography
o Esther is not Sylvia but created around some situations Sylvia has been thru
- Born Boston 1932
- Father German born in Poland, mother of Austrian descent
- Father died when SP 9
- 1950-55: Smith College
o Prestigious, woman only college
- 1982: won Mademoiselle fiction competition =; guest editorship, NYC June 1953,
returned to Boston, suicide attempt
- Hospitalized, electro convulsion therapy, returned to Smith
- 1955-57 Fulbright fellowship to Cambridge, married Ted Hughes
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- 1960-63 publishing powerful and increasingly expressive poetry, incl. “Lady Lazarus”
October 1962
- 2 children born; separation from Hughes
- January 1963, The Bell Jar published
- Feb 1963 suicide
- Ariel (included “Lady Lazarus”) publish posthumously
o Don’t let fiction slide into real life
o Does draw on autobiography to create work but distance from two
Sylvia Plath speaks (video on courselink)
- Interview BBC 1962
o Her poetic models
o Her American identity (“I am not very genteel”)
Language, accent is American
Poets that excite her the most are American
British poetry is in a straight jacket
o Her genealogy
German and Austrian
o Becoming more historical
o Need to connect “the personal” with “the larger things”
Personal experiences important, shouldn’t be a shut box
Should relate to the larger things
Need for manipulation, mediation, to use personal experiences to go
beyond that person
Writing the self into being in poetry and fiction
- What comes with the genre?
- “Lady Lazarus” and The Bell Jar
- Similarities and differences in terms of
o Literary form
o Representation of social conditions
o Historical references
o Use of autobiographical material
Similarities
- “Lady Lazarus”
o Out of the ash
o I rise with my red hair
- The Bell Jar
o I am I am I am. (166)
o I am, I am, I am, (256)
Detail of punctuation impact that it has
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