American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath

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On the fiftieth anniversary of her death, a startling new vision of Plath—the first to draw from the recently-opened Ted Hughes archive

The life and work of Sylvia Plath has taken on the proportions of myth. Educated at Smith, she had an epically conflict-filled relationship with her mother, Aurelia. She then married the poet Ted Hughes and plunged into the sturm and drang of married life in the full glare of the world of English and American letters. Her poems were fought over, rejected, accepted and, ultimately, embraced by readers everywhere. Dead at thirty, she committed suicide by putting her head in an oven while her children slept.

Her poetry collection titled Ariel became a modern classic. Her novel The Bell Jar has a fixed place on student reading lists. American Isis will be the first Plath bio benefitting from the new Ted Hughes archive at the British Library which includes forty one letters between Plath and Hughes as well as a host of unpublished papers. The Sylvia Plath Carl Rollyson brings to us in American Isis is no shrinking Violet overshadowed by Ted Hughes, she is a modern day Isis, a powerful force that embraced high and low culture to establish herself in the literary firmament.

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About the author

CARL ROLLYSON is professor of journalism at Baruch College, The City University of New York and the author of twelve biographies including Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress and, with his wife, Lisa Paddock, Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon. He reviews biographies regularly for The Wall Street Journal, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Washington Post, The New Criterion, and other papers. He writes a column every two weeks for bibliobuffet.com. He lives in Cape May Court House, New Jersey.

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Additional Information

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
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Published on
Jan 29, 2013
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781250023155
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Literary Figures
Biography & Autobiography / Women
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A new biography of Sylvia Plath, a literary icon who continues to haunt, fascinate, and enthrall even now, fifty years after her death

On February 25 , 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter—now one of the most famous in all of literary history—was recorded by Plath in her journal, where she described Hughes as a “big, dark, hunky boy.” Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured her life and work. The sensational aspects of the Plath-Hughes relationship have dominated the cultural landscape to such an extent that their story has taken on the resonance of a modern myth.

Before she met Ted, Plath had lived a complex, creative, and disturbing life. Her father had died when she was only eight; she had gone out with literally hundreds of men, had been unofficially engaged, had tried to commit suicide, and had written more than two hundred poems. Mad Girl’s Love Song chronicles these early years, traces the sources of her mental instability, and examines how a range of personal, economic, and societal factors—the real disquieting muses— conspired against her.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century’s most popular and enduring female poet. Mad Girl’s Love Song reclaims Sylvia Plath from the tangle of emotions associated with her relationship with Ted Hughes and reveals the origins of her unsettled and unsettling voice.
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