Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Sylvia Plath is one of the few authors who has been posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Plath's exceptional literary career is not limited with that. When twentieth-century literary history is examined, it becomes patent that no writer has created such an enormous impact as Sylvia Plath. Furthermore, no writer or poet has been as misunderstood as in the case of Plath. In addition, no writer or poet has been labeled often as "schizophrenic" or "mad" by scholars or researchers who do not have the slightest education in psychology or psychopathology. Therefore, the works written on Plath, or the studies that have been made on Plath must be carefully read in order to prevent reading her works under false lights. In relation to that Plath's works must be read solely as literary works that are part of the twentieth century literature, not fantasies. In relation, the myths that have been created concerning Plath or the readings that start from the death of Plath are not only the false lights of literary critics but also of the ideology of Cold War America that has tried to turn Plath into a problematic woman. As a result, although the literary critics have tended to create many Plaths, including the psychotic, the divorced, the dead, the mad, the divided, and the schizoid, as a matter of fact there is only one Sylvia Plath, who crystallizes not only the traumas of her generation but also various literary works as a response to the ideology of her age. Although Plath's life-story is not exceptional but exemplary, her story would be turned in to a myth, an exceptional fairy tale mired in gossip, lies and the defamation of the literary significance of her works. In the end, it would be unable to prevent the appearance of the Plath industry that aimed at re-creating her story again and again. As a result, almost all of the early works on Plath, including the biographies and criticism of the poems and the prose, have attempted to recreate a story, a myth, which has turned into an industry that focuses on a Sylvia Plath, who has been defined in terms of the dead father or the lost husband. Therefore, absence, as a key word of interpreting Plath, has postulated the transformation of a genius into a "mad woman in the attic" who has become solely associated with the "image of an Oedipal victim." Hence, the intention of re-creating different stories of Plath resulted in a birth of "a myth" and "the Plath myth" has tried to reinvent the life story of Plath and undermine her works. This study focuses on the conventional claims concerning Sylvia Plath and her works that have naturally intermingled with the theory that her works were mainly built upon the life-story of Plath encompassing despair, trauma, and schizophrenia, and postulates that Plath's works not only encompass pessimism but also happiness, achievement, and power. This study encapsulates studies on Plath that are crucial to decipher the Plath myth that has followed the interpretation of the works of Plath like a shadow. Hence, it focuses on the most prominent and paradoxical issues about Sylvia Plath, her life, and the creation process involved in her work. The idea of the Mona Lisa Smile of Sylvia Plath encompasses the death of Sylvia Plath, conventionally interpreted as a tragic suicide of a schizophrenic woman, which is the starting point of almost all of the Plath studies. Therefore the analysis of key readings on Plath tries to highlight how the ending of her story has been fabricated by her family, her critics and scholars. This study also analyzes the political voice of Plath that has been ignored by most of the Plath scholars. Although Plath achieved and maintained a unique and evolving political voice, both in her poetry and prose, under the name of"madness" this unique style has been read under the misleading light of Plath's biography retold by different Plath scholars. As a result, in Plath studies, the starting point can never simply be the criticism of the works of Plath, but biased quartet composed of Ted Hughes, Otto Plath and the mad woman in the attic. The point is her political voice again remains absent in their commentary. Furthermore, even Plath herself is absent. This kind of absence of the female voice resulted in the danger of reading her works solely from a little picture that cannot postulate new interpretations or fields of inquiry. Plath also highlightsthe problem of reading her works. However an objective analysis of the "Plath myth" offers striking answers to the dilemma of the Plath scholars and readers, who are lost in the mazes of subjective Plath biographies and literary critics, under the name of the 'Plath myth.' It can be assumed that Plath disproves the interpretations of Sylvia Plath as somehow political, or as someone whose works should be read without any association with political commentary.
Knutsen, Kimberly Dawn, "The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath" (2005). Dissertations. 1040.