Advertisement

“Hundreds of People Like Me”: A Search for a Mad Community in The Bell Jar

  • Rose Miyatsu
Chapter
Part of the Literary Disability Studies book series (LIDIST)

Abstract

This chapter examines how Sylvia Plath’s asylum novel The Bell Jar imagines what a community of people who identify as mentally ill might look like, and who gets left behind when “getting better” is privileged. Most current criticism on The Bell Jar examines Esther’s search for identity as either a woman or a writer, overlooking the fact that while Esther is searching for female role models, she is also searching for identity and community as a person with an enduring mental illness. Although the cure-focused hierarchical structure of the asylum dampens Esther’s attempts at forming lasting bonds there, the relationships she does form influence how she sees herself and others, and encourages her to at least imagine a community that could incorporate mental distress.

Works Cited

  1. Adamo, Melissa. “The Murkiness of The Bell Jar: Questions of Genre and Depression.” Critical Insights: Sylvia Plath, edited by William K. Buckley. Salem Press, 2013, pp. 176–203.Google Scholar
  2. Ahmed, Sara. The Promise of Happiness. Duke University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  3. Badia, Janet. “The Bell Jar and Other Prose.” The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath, edited by Jo Gill. Cambridge University Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  4. Beam, Alex. Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America’s Premier Mental Hospital. Public Affairs, 2001.Google Scholar
  5. Bennett, Paula. My Life, a Loaded Gun: Female Creativity and Feminist Poetics. Beacon Press, 1986.Google Scholar
  6. Bonds, Diane S. “The Separative Self in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 18, no. 1, 1990, pp. 49–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boyer, Marilyn. “The Disabled Female Body as a Metaphor for Language in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.” Women’s Studies, vol. 33, no. 2, 2004, pp. 199–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Budick, E.M. “The Feminist Discourse of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.” College English, vol. 49, no. 8, 1987, pp. 872–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bundtzen, Lynda K. Plath’s Incarnations: Woman and the Creative Process. University of Michigan Press, 1983.Google Scholar
  10. Coyle, Susan. “Images of Madness and Retrieval: An Exploration of Metaphor in The Bell Jar.” Studies in American Fiction, vol. 12, no. 2, 1984, pp. 161–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Danquah, Meri. Willow Weep for Me: A Black Woman’s Journey Through Depression, A Memoir. Norton, 1998.Google Scholar
  12. Donaldson, Elizabeth J. “The Corpus of the Madwoman: Toward a Feminist Disability Studies Theory of Embodiment and Mental Illness.” NWSA Journal, vol. 14, no. 3, 2002, pp. 99–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Donofrio, Nicholas. “Esther Greenwood’s Internship: White-Collar Work and Literary Careerism in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.” Contemporary Literature, vol. 56, no. 2, 2015, pp. 216–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Macmillan, 2009.Google Scholar
  15. Farland, Maria. “Literary Feminisms.” The Cambridge History of the American Novel. Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 925–40.Google Scholar
  16. ——— . “Sylvia Plath’s Anti-Psychiatry.” Minnesota Review: A Journal of Committed Writing, no. 55–57, 2002, pp. 245–56.Google Scholar
  17. Ferretter, Luke. Sylvia Plath’s Fiction: A Critical Study. Edinburgh University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
  18. Gilman, Sander L. “Madness.” Keywords for Disability Studies, edited by Rachel Adams, Benjamin Reiss, and David Serlin. New York University Press, 2015, pp. 114–19.Google Scholar
  19. Goffman, Erving. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Anchor Books, 1961.Google Scholar
  20. Love, Heather. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Harvard University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  21. Macpherson, Pat. Reflecting on The Bell Jar. Routledge, 1991.Google Scholar
  22. Perloff, Marjorie. “‘A Ritual for Being Born Twice’: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.” Contemporary Literature, vol. 13, no. 4, 1972, pp. 507–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. 1971. Reprint. Harper Perennial, 2006.Google Scholar
  24. Price, Margaret. Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life. University of Michigan Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  25. Schiller, Lori, and Amanda Bennett. The Quiet Room: A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness. Grand Central Publishing, 2008.Google Scholar
  26. Smith, Jeffery. Where the Roots Reach for Water: A Personal and Natural History of Melancholia. North Point Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  27. Solomon, Andrew. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. Simon and Schuster, 2014.Google Scholar
  28. Spandler, Helen, and Jill Anderson. “Unreasonable Adjustments? Applying Disability Politics to Madness and Distress.” Madness, Distress, and the Politics of Disablement, edited by Helen Spandler, Jill Anderson, and Bob Sapey. Policy Press, 2015.Google Scholar
  29. Wagner, Linda W. “Plath’s The Bell Jar as Female Bildungsroman.” Women’s Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 1986, pp. 55–68.Google Scholar
  30. Wagner-Martin, Linda. Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Whittier, Gayle. “The Divided Woman and Generic Doubleness in The Bell Jar.” Women’s Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, 1976, pp. 127–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wurtzel, Elizabeth. Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America. Riverhead Books, 1995.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rose Miyatsu
    • 1
  1. 1.Washington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

Personalised recommendations