The ‘Edge’ of Sylvia Plath Critical History: A Reappraisal of Plath’s Work 60 years after
A special issue of E-Rea: Revue électronique d’études sur le monde anglophone
Deadline for abstracts: 15 October 2021
- Nicolas-Pierre Boileau (Aix-Marseille Université, France)
- Carmen Bonasera (University of Pisa, Italy)
Sixty years after the publication of The Bell Jar (1963), her semi-autobiographical and only novel, and, also, sixty years after her untimely death, Sylvia Plath’s poetry and prose continue to attract attention from scholars and readers worldwide, as seen in the constant re-publishing of her works in English and translation. For many decades, her trailblazing career was overshadowed by the emotional response of critics and readers alike to her suicide. This gradually resulted in constructing Plath either as an iconic martyr or as a melodramatic cliché, all of that perpetuating a distorted reception of her posthumous oeuvre, as if her works mirrored her tragic life.
The year 2023 seems the appropriate occasion to add a further tile to the mosaic of Plath criticism. Far from being exhausted, the critical interest in Plath’s life and writing has adopted various approaches. This heterogeneous critical response was not only caused by different critical trends and cultural contexts, but it was also partly due to a fragmentary publication history. While alternative readings regularly emerged in the 1990s, often in response to edited or newly discovered material, a decade of near silence followed the publication of the most significant critical studies (The Cambridge Introduction, 2006, and The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath, 2008, both edited by Jo Gill), suggesting that the matter could have worn out.
In light of the resurfacing of previously unpublished writings, this special issue of E-Rea aims to engage with the challenging questions put forth by the latest contributions by and about Sylvia Plath: Plath’s correspondence (The Letters of Sylvia Plath, volumes 1&2, eds. Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil, 2017-18), recent trends in Plath studies (Sylvia Plath in Context, ed. Tracy Brain, 2019), and the latest biography (Heather Clark’s Red Comet, 2020). Given the recent resurgence of interest in her life, works and legacy, we would like to attract established and emerging scholars to discuss the upcoming issues of reading Plath in the 2020s. Specific attention will be devoted to essays that delve into Plath’s construction of her persona in poetry and life writing, in order to discuss which Sylvia Plath we have been constructing these past sixty years, and to promote fresh commentaries about one of the most electric poetic voices of the 20th century.
Original textual readings and essays featuring a comparative scope are especially encouraged. Moreover, papers on topics as diverse as (but not limited to) the following are welcome:
- Plath and life writing
- Plath’s self narrative between poetry and prose
- Plath and her correspondence
- Plath’s biography: new insights
- Plath’s The Bell Jarat 60
- Issues of genre in The Bell Jar: autobiography or autofiction?
- Issues of gender: Plath and feminism(s)
- Queering Plath
- Plath, pathography and the Medical Humanities
- Plath and Nature: ecocritical views
- Plath and intertextuality
- Re-reading Plath
- Plath studies: previous and new perspectives
- Plath’s legacy in the 21st century
- Plath in Europe
E-Rea accepts contributions in French and in English.
Contributors should send a .pdf file to both firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by October 15th, 2021. The proposal should include a title, an abstract in English or French (500 words max.), the author’s affiliation and brief bio. Acceptance of proposals will be notified by November 15th, 2021. Full articles will be expected by November 15th, 2022. Publication is envisioned for E-REA’s Spring issue in 2023.
 For major monographs about Plath published in the 1990s and early 2000s, see: Steven G. Axelrod, Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins UP, 1990; Jacqueline Rose, The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, London, Virago, 1991; Susan R. Van Dyne, Revising Life: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems, Chapel Hill, U. of North Carolina Press, 1993; Christina Britzolakis, Sylvia Plath and the Theatre of Mourning, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1999; Tracy Brain, The Other Sylvia Plath, Harlow, Pearson Education, 2001.