Posted March 4, 2013 | Atlanta, GA
Sylvia Plath began writing in her brown, cardboard-backed, spiral bound James Joyce notebook while studying Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) as a sophomore in Elizabeth Drew's modern literature course at Smith in Spring, 1952. A year later, she added Ulysses (1922) notes from Robert Gorham Davis's course. When she traveled to Cambridge as a Fulbright Scholar, she brought this guidebook along, filling its final pages with the essence of David Daiches's 1956 lectures. As a student, Plath also recorded some of her first impressions of Joyce's prose in her copy of Portrait of the Artist (1948), which is now housed in Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. When she later prepared to teach Joyce as an instructor of first year English at Smith in 1958, Plath grappled with her youthful identification with “the book I dreamily campus-wandered with myself, some five years ago, the Portrait of The Artist, word-encanting, descanting. . . . to organize: how to present, vividly” (Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 321). Plath's teaching notes reshape the contents of her Joyce notebook and reflect that she consulted such essays as Hugh Kenner's "The Portrait in Perspective" (1948), which Drew had cited. Plath also annotated a teaching copy of Portrait of the Artist in the Portable James Joyce (1955), which is with her Joyce notebook and teaching notes in Indiana University's Lilly Library.
First-year Brittain Fellow Amanda Golden's analyzes these artifacts together for the first time to argue that the material history of Plath's reading is emblematic of the potential for postwar writers' libraries and teaching notes to enable new histories of modernism in academic institutions.
Golden's interest in Plath is also evident in a review she recently published of
Marsha Bryant's Women's Poetry and Popular Culture (Palgrave, 2011) in Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature. Her review, recently published in Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, observes that Marsha Bryant's Women's Poetry and Popular Culture is a vital contribution to women's poetry studies and postwar poetry studies. Bryant begins by engaging the vexed, often pejorative, responses to "women's poetry" and poets' writing about popular culture. Analyzing different facets of the popular in each chapter, including material, visual, periodical, consumer, film, and media cultures, Bryant builds on the historical methods of the new modernist studies. In five chapters devoted to H. D., Stevie Smith, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, and Ai and Carol Ann Duffy, Bryant addresses the complex relationship between popular contexts and the form of twentieth-century Anglo-American women's poetry.