Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 117–132 | Cite as

Sylvia Plath’s “Exaggerated American Grin”: Anti-American Sentiment and the Reception of Plath’s Poetry

  • Anna Jackson


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  1. 1.
    Sylvia, directed by Christine Jeffs, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig. DVD (Icon 2003). Reviews which refer to a readership of “teenage girls” include “No rhyme or reason,” by Alex Spence (New Zealand Sunday Star Times, January 25, 2004, p. 20), “Death Becomes Her,” by Laura Barton (London, The Guardian, Saturday November 8, 2003), “Sylvia,” by Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian, Friday November 7, 2003). The specific quote “highly strung teenage girls” as well as the reference to the “angry, hiccouphy” voice are both from the Laura Barton review, while the “Kurt Cobain of modern poetry” line is from the review by Alex Spence.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters, London, 1998, p. 3.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Birthday Letters, p. 3.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Birthday Letters, pp. 9 and 24.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sylvia: The Shooting Script, screenplay and introduction by John Brownlow, New York, 2003. p. 1.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Philip Matthews, “Among the Elements,” New Zealand Listener (January 17, 2004), p. 20.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    John Brownlow, “Who’s afraid of Sylvia Plath?” Guardian (Friday August 22, 2003), accessed on-line, at,4120,1027004,00.html.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    David Walsh, “Sylvia Plath is hardly present,” World Socialist Web Site (22 November, 2003)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Olwyn Hughes is quoted using these terms by many writers, but her views are most fully outlined in Janet Malcolm’s account The Silent Woman, London and Basingstoke, 1994. These terms are used on pp. 47, 51, and 76.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Quoted in The Silent Woman, p. 186.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    From reviews reprinted in Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage ed. Linda Wagner, London and New York, 1988, pp. 81, 85, 89.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Philip Hensher, “In Appreciation of a Better Poet,” as published in the New Zealand Herald (first published in the Daily Telegraph, distributed by the Telegraph Group Ltd) (January 28, 2004)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Birthday Letters, pp. 144–146.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Birthday Letters, p. 32.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Jane Baltzell Kopp, ““Gone, Very Gone Youth”: Sylvia Plath at Cambridge, 1955–1957,” in Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work, ed. Edward Butscher, New York, 1977, pp. 61–80Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    The Silent Woman, p. 75.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Dido Merwin, “Vessel of Wrath,” an appendix to Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, by Anne Stevenson, London, 1998, first published 1989, pp. 324–5.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lucas Myers, “Ah, Youth … Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath at Cambridge and After,” an appendix to Bitter Fame, p. 312.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Bitter Fame, pp. 314–315.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Bitter Fame, pp. 316–7.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ted Hughes, “Ariel,” published in the Poetry Book Society Bulletin, no. 44, February 1965, after Plath’s Ariel was made the Poetry Book Society’s Spring Choice. Reprinted in Ted Hughes, Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose, ed. William Scammell, London, 1994.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Stephen Spender, “Warnings from the Grave,” originally published in New Republic, 18 June 1966, reprinted in Sylvia: The Critical Heritage, edited by Linda W. Wagner, London and New York, 1988, p. 71.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    A. Alvarez, “Poetry in Extremis,” originally published in the Observer, 12 March 1965, reprinted in The Critical Heritage, p. 57Google Scholar
  24. 23a.
    P. N. Furbank, “New Poetry,” originally published in the Listener, 11 March 1965, reprinted in The Critical Heritage, p. 74.Google Scholar
  25. 24.
    Laurence Lerner, “Sylvia Plath,” originally published in the Encounter, January 1982, reprinted in The Critical Heritage, p. 261.Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    Reviews of Ariel from The Critical Heritage, pp. 32–51. A. Alvarez’s review, “The Poet and the Poetess,” was originally published in the Observer, December 1960; this quote is from The Critical Heritage, p. 34.Google Scholar
  27. 26.
    P. N. Furbank, p. 73.Google Scholar
  28. 27.
    Robin Skelton, untitled review, originally published in the Massachusetts Review, Autumn 1965, reprinted in The Critical Heritage, p. 90Google Scholar
  29. 27a.
    Irving Feldman, “The Religion of One,” originally published in Book Week, 19 June 1966, reprinted in The Critical Heritage, p. 84; unsigned review, “Russian Roulette,” originally published in Newsweek, 20 June 1966, reprinted in The Critical Heritage, p. 89Google Scholar
  30. 27b.
    Richard Tillinghast, “Worlds of Their Own,” originally published in the Southern Review, Spring 1969, reprinted in The Critical Heritage, p. 79.Google Scholar
  31. 28.
    John Brownlow, Sylvia: The Shooting Script, pp. 30–31.Google Scholar
  32. 29.
    Brownlow, pp. 38–39.Google Scholar
  33. 30.
    Sylvia Plath, Collected Poems, ed. Ted Hughes, London and Boston, 1981, pp. 81–139.Google Scholar
  34. 31.
    Anne Stevenson, Bitter Fame, p. 123.Google Scholar
  35. 32.
    Diane Middlebrook, Her Husband: Hughes and Plath: A Marriage, London, 2004, p. 117.Google Scholar
  36. 33.
    Deborah Nelson, “Plath, History and Politics,” in Jo Gill, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath, Cambridge, 2006, p. 23.Google Scholar
  37. 34.
    The Silent Woman, pp. 185-6.Google Scholar
  38. 35.
    Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950–1962, ed. Karen V. Kukil, London, 2000, p. 569.Google Scholar
  39. 36.
    Deborah Nelson uses this phrase to characterise the criticism, particularly, of Jacqueline Rose and Susan Gubar, in “Plath, History and Politics,” p. 27.Google Scholar
  40. 37.
    J.C., N.B. commentary section of the Times Literary Supplement, March 24, 2000.Google Scholar
  41. 38.
    The Poet Speaks, Argo Record Co. No. RG 455 (London), from the BBC interview of October 30, 1962.Google Scholar
  42. 39.
    Jacqueline Rose, The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991, p. 8.Google Scholar
  43. 40.
    In Tracy Brain, The Other Sylvia Plath, Harlow, England, 2001, p. 53. This book includes a chapter “Straddling the Atlantic” which looks at the significance of Plath’s American identity, less in terms of how it might have contributed to the Plath myth and more in terms of the tensions in Plath’s own writing, although she does also look at how responses to Plath’s nationality shaped the different biographies.Google Scholar
  44. 41.
    The Other Sylvia Plath, p. 45.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of the Journal of Transatlantic Studies 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Jackson
    • 1
  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

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