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Sylvia Plath is Perfected: Recent Directions in Plath Studies (NeMLA 51st Annual Convention)

Boston, MA; Marriott Copley Place
Organization: NeMLA
Event: NeMLA 51st Annual Convention
Categories: 20th & 21st Century
Event Date: 2020-03-05 to 2020-03-08 Abstract Due: 2019-09-30

Taking its title from “Edge,” one of Sylvia Plath’s last poems—“The woman is perfected”—this panel approaches her writing as more of her words have become available to readers.


The recent publication of Sylvia Plath’s two volumes of letters and short story “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom” has brought increased attention to the work of this writer with Boston connections. She grew up outside of Boston in Winthrop then Wellesley, scenes in The Bell Jar occur in Boston, Plath lived at 9 Willow Street with her husband, and she famously attended Robert Lowell’s workshop and met Anne Sexton in Boston. As NeMLA meets in her home area and her work is in the public eye, we can reconsider her writing and life. Publication of her complete letters, only a few years after the unabridged journals, suggests a more transparent presentation of writing by the estate. Where do we stand now in our understanding of her work? Why does her work and life continue to fascinate readers?


Topics may include: Plath and Boston, Plath and Lowell and/or Sexton, new publications and directions in Plath studies (including the Lettersand “Mary Ventura”), Plath’s and/or her readers’ identity, changes in the Plath estate’s approach to publication and scholarship, Plath and feminist culture, Plath’s resonance with contemporary culture, Plath in popular media (film, music, and literature), Plath and material culture (including objects associated with or owned by her sold recently at auction), Plath archives, or teaching Plath in the 21st century.

Recent publications of Sylvia Plath’s writings invite us to evaluate her work through new lenses. This panel seeks to investigate new directions in Plath’s work while also, perhaps, considering her connection to the Boston area and its literary history. Papers informed by the comprehensive two volumes of her letters are especially welcome as we address our current understanding of Plath’s work.

Submit abstracts for consideration online by September 30, 2019: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/18040



Gary Leising