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Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

(p.101) Chapter Eight Sylvia Plath
The Alvarez Generation
William Wootten
Liverpool University Press

This chapter analyzes the poetry of Sylvia Plath. It notes her tendency to figure or literalise the dominant critical metaphors of the time — a tendency evident in her contemporaries but is particularly pronounced in Plath. Moreover, this tendency applies even to such a seemingly abstract concept as poetic impersonality, a concept which can easily be depicted in terms of Laingian depersonalisation. With the simplifying wrong-way telescope of hindsight, Plath could be said to have moved from a paradigm of poetic impersonality to a personalised aesthetic of confessionalism or extremism. But in fact many of the intriguing and valuable tensions in her later work proceed from how she is attempting to make use of the material of the latter while still evincing considerable attachment both to the paradigm of the former and to the fashion for the dramatic soliloquy and dramatic monologue, a mode to which she kept returning, even in the last poems of 1963.

Keywords:   women poets, poetry, Sylvia Plath, metaphor, poetic impersonality, confessionalism, extremism

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