01 July 2007

day 101 - the haunting of sylvia plath

browsing through the bookshelves at st georges' bookshop after sam hamill's reading (see below), i came across a couple of interesting reads, one of which was a book called the haunting of sylvia plath, written by jacqueline rose. it was originally published in london back in 1991, and even though i have been interested in most any publication regarding sylvia plath and her work, i had never heard of it it before. as yet, i have only read up to page thirteen, and i have to say i find it quite complicated. basically, jacqueline rose relates the fields of psychoanalysis, feminism and literature - sometimes in a very shallow manner ('writing may be a form of madness, but for the one who writes, it can equally be a way of staying sane.', p. 4), but sometimes also profound ('for freud, the utterance can only ever be partial, scarred as it is by the division between conscious and unconscious [...]. [...] the frequent diagnoses of plath seem to me to have as at least one of their effects, if not purposes, that they have transposed into a fact of her individual pathology the no less difficult problem of the contradictory, divided and incomplete nature of representation itself', p. 5) or daring ('soap operas are one of the means of negotiating the stereotypes of culture', p. 6). the wildest statement i've read so far, though, would have to be

'the ariel poems are totally without pathos, expressive only of a certain pride, which may seem the more active emotion, except that this same pride is the pride of total surrender asking (the man, inevitably) for death.'

uuuhm, yeah, well, not too sure about that. i mean, obviously, sylvia's death wish is clear, and so are her difficulties with men, but maybe blaming men for her depression was just another way - an easier and also glossier one, so to speak - of shifting responsibility. the demons that urged her to kill herself, were all within her: be it self-made (depression, biochemically speaking), inherited (father) or voluntarily selected (ted hughes, in this case). i believe sylvia knew this all too well and that her decision to kill herself was a revolution in a way, an intentional, very own liberation, and thus all but a desire to be relieved by someone else. quite the contrary: to me, she's not asking the man for death, but asking the men within her, if you want, to die. and then, when they didn't, she went ahead and killed them by killing herself. as i see it, the only surrender that took place was not one to the man, but one caused by a physical lack of energy to withstand the various 'men's' mental attacks on her being. so, by killing herself, she reclaimed responsibility and exercised the exact opposite of that imploring naivety jacquline rose alleges.

does that make any sense at all?

for poems and more info, try the sylvia plath forum, for example.

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