Claiming Sylvia Plath: The Poet as Exemplary Figure
Author: Marianne Egeland
Date Of Publication: Jan 2013
Over the years, Sylvia Plath has come to inhabit a contested area of cultural production with other ambiguous authors between the highbrow, the middlebrow, and the popular. Claiming Sylvia Plath is a critical and comprehensive reception study of what has been written about Plath from 1960 to 2010. Academic and popular interest in her seems incessant, verging on a public obsession. The story of Sylvia Plath is not only the story of a writer and her texts, but also of the readers who have tried to make sense of her life and work. A religious tone and a rhetoric of accountability dominate among the devoted. Questing for the real or true Sylvia, they share a sense of posessiveness towards outsiders or those who deviate from what they see as a correct approach to the poet.
In order to offer a new and more nuanced perspective on Plath’s public image, the reception has been organized into interpretive communities composed of critics, feminists, biographers, psychologists, and friends. Pertinent questions are raised about how the poet functions as an excemplary figure, and how – and by whom – she is used to further theories, politics, careers, and a number of other causes. Ethical issues and rhetorical strategies consequently loom high in Claiming Sylvia Plath. The book may be employed both as a guide to the massive body of Plath literature and as a history of a changing critical doxa. Why Sylvia Plath has been serviceable to so many and open to colonization is another way of asking why she keeps on fascinating all kinds of readers worldwide. Claiming Sylvia Plath suggests a host of possible answers. It includes an extensive Plath bibliography.
Marianne Egeland is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Oslo, Norway, and previously worked in academic publishing. She has published books on Sylvia Plath, Mexican literature, the Norwegian University Press, the rhetoric of biography, and the biography as a historical and literary genre.
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