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Sylvia Plath: A Critical Guide: A Critical Study Paperback – 20 Aug 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (20 Aug. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571192351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571192359
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 97,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Sylvia Plath (1932-63) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.


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Format: Paperback
I found this book to be an ideal way of becoming more familiar with Plath's Collected poems, as it considers every main stage of her work in a well rounded critical way. Although opinions on what certain aspects of her work mean inevitably differ, Tim Kendal has analysed the poetry without being relaint on the biographical background in which her marvelous work was written. If you are at all interested in the works of Sylvia Plath then this book is a brilliant introduction and further study to Plath. If you do not already have the Collected Poems I suggest you get hold of them as even though this Book provides quotes on it's subject matter, the context of the entire set poem is vital in getting the most out of this book.
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Sylvia Plath is the marmite poet. You either love her work or you loath it. This situation is made worse by certain commentators who cloud the issue further by speculating on her private life and more or less oblige the reader to take sides between her and her husband Ted Hughes.
Tim Kendall is the antidote to all this nonsense. He is a very level-headed critic of her work with strong and clearly stated views. I am not a Plath expert so I do not know how mainstream these views are, but they certainly helped me get a better appreciation of her poetry, which is, let’s face it, not the easiest to understand.
The first thing to note about his approach is that he goes to great pains to keep the poet’s biography in the background and avoids almost all speculation into her psychological state. The biography cannot be eliminated altogether, as certain details are necessary for the understanding of the poems – her age when her father died, her age when she attempted suicide and very nearly succeeded, her father’s interest in bees, the name of her son, etc.
This approach allows the Sylvia versus Ted question to be neatly sidestepped, which in turn allows the poems to stand for themselves, which is, one hopes, what Sylvia herself would have wanted.
Standing up for itself under Professor Kendall’s scrutiny is a pretty exposed situation to be in. One of the first things he does in the book is dismiss virtually all the poems written before Ariel as juvenilia. This means that the poems deemed worthy of serious consideration are largely limited to those written in the last year of her life. He then goes on to distinguish the true Ariel poems, mostly written in 1962, from the very late poems written in 1963 immediately before Plath’s successful suicide in February of that year.
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Fantastic book and fantastic help for degree level.
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