Cover image for The other Sylvia Plath
The other Sylvia Plath
Brain, Tracy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Harlow, England ; New York : Longman, 2001.
Physical Description:
x, 238 pages, 4 pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3566.L27 Z5827 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In this new study, Tracy Brain moves away from the endlessly retold story of Sylvia Plath's life to argue that there is another Sylvia Plath: a writer who was much more interested in a world beyond her own skin than critics have allowed. Teachers, students and general readers should appreciate these new close readings of poems and stories that have seldom been talked about, or have been discussed mainly in biographical terms.


Despite being widely studied on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses the writing of Sylvia Plath has been relatively neglected in relation to the attention given to her life and what drove her to suicide. Tracy Brain aims to remedy this by introducing completely new approaches to Plath's writing, taking the studies away from the familiar concentration to reveal that Plath as a writer was concerned with a much wider range of important cultural and political topics. Unlike most of the existing literary criticism it shifts the focus away from biographical readings and encompasses the full range of Plath's poetry, prose, journals and letters using a variety of critical methods.

Author Notes

Tracy Brain lectures in English and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University College

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Brain's study is a welcome and long overdue correction of some earlier critical studies of Plath that dramatized biographical details to the detriment of the work itself. Certainly Plath suffered traumas and pressure: her father's death when she was eight, her need to be exceptional as a student, her ambition as a writer, her early suicide attempt. Plath was a product of the culture of the 1950s, wanting to be all things to everyone: the perfect wife, mother, and daughter and brilliant poet. It is easy to see why some interpreted her poetry, the novel The Bell Jar, and her stories as autobiographical. Contending that Plath's journals were material for the writing, not documentation, Brain (Bath Spa Univ. College, UK) argues that the sum of Plath's work is a progression from the clever student transforming, improving, and developing into an accomplished artist despite the daily events of motherhood and roles of dutiful daughter and jealous wife of her better-known husband, Ted Hughes. The creative process was not transcription; it was reconfiguration through the imagination. Although some of the material seems arbitrary, many good, critical exegeses invite readers--particularly students at the undergraduate level--to revisit and to reconsider Plath in the decades since her untimely end at age 30. H. Susskind emeritus, Monroe Community College

Table of Contents

List of Platesp. VII
Acknowledgementsp. IX
Chapter 1 The Outline of the World Comes Clearp. 1
Packaging Sylvia Plathp. 1
Where is Sylvia Plath?p. 12
The Plath Archivesp. 22
Dearly Belovedp. 31
Chapter 2 Straddling the Atlanticp. 45
Your Puddle-Jumping Daughterp. 45
Plath Our Compatriotp. 50
Where Are We?p. 59
Alienation and Belonging in the Bee Poemsp. 69
The Foreigner Withinp. 74
Chapter 3 Plath's Environmentalismp. 84
Backgroundp. 84
Prosep. 91
Circulating Venomp. 105
The Complications of Masculinityp. 119
Do You Do No Harm?p. 128
Chapter 4 The Origins of the Bell Jarp. 141
Bronte, Woolf and Plathp. 141
A Comparisonp. 142
The Legacyp. 145
Woolf and The Bell Jarp. 147
Rethinking Buddy Willardp. 151
The Misunderstood Mother and The Bell Jar Manuscriptsp. 153
Sylvia Plath's Villettep. 155
Chapter 5 A Way of Getting the Poemsp. 176
The Critics on Hughes and Plathp. 177
Hughes's Storyp. 180
The Reciprocity of Influence between Plath and Hughesp. 191
The Question of the Confessionalp. 194
Before Birthday Lettersp. 197
Textual Relationships and Poetic Conversationsp. 200
Bleeding Through the Pagep. 203
The Futurep. 207
Bibliographyp. 218
Indexp. 231