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The Life and Poetry of Sylvia Plath

There are still those, for example, who periodically attempt to deface Plath's tombstone, which reads 'Sylvia Plath Hughes" and which they see as "a wrongful incorporation of 'Sylvia Plath' into the patriarchy that had a hand in her destruction" (Marsack 87). This proprietary feeling was expressed by those who, in the first flush of 1960s feminism, believed that Plath's problems could be quite simply defined. They were as clear, surely, as the facts assembled about Plath's life, the 'evidence' of The Bell Jar, and the clear correlation of autobiography and poetry in works such as "Daddy."

In 1970, for example, an early feminist critic referred to The Bell Jar as Plath's "autobiography" and wanted to know whether there is "clear evidence of feminism proper in her art" and whether Plath "at least give[s] an oblique, personalized view of the contemporary struggle of woman for complete selfhood, autonomy" (Corrigan 17). Corrigan decided that there is no evidence of such autonomy nor of a genuine struggle to achieve it. This poet of the fifties "subject[ed] herself to the judgment of troops of traditional male critics" and, acceding the verdicts of men, treated herself with "violence, negation, subjugation, absolute judgment" (20). Corrigan did not see Plath as embodying the type of struggle to which contemporary feminists devoted themselves. Plath accepted the judgment of the patriarchy and dismissed herself in doing so. Yet, Corrigan concluded, "we can take her sacrifice as being meant for our benefits" (21).

While such a judgment is extremely crude (and makes the reader long to hear Plath's response) it embodied, nonetheless, a tone that was a major part of feminist criticism for over 20 years. Though, as Marsack points out, many feminist critics recognized the identification problem as a phenomenon in its own right and tried to separate genuine criticism of the work from criticism of Plath's lack of feminist principles or...

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The Life and Poetry of Sylvia Plath. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:34, August 18, 2017, from
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