ENGL 262
Confession and Catharsis in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Spring 2010
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed ENGL 262 / WGST 262
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Ted Hughes’s publication of Birthday Letters in January, 1998, was portrayed in the press and reviews as breaking a 35-year silence on his wife Sylvia Plath’s suicide in 1963. What made this volume of poems a bestseller was its confessional and biographical drama. Hughes addresses his dead spouse and returns to all of the major events in their shared life, simultaneously exposing his feelings and intuitions about what went wrong in their marriage and why Plath was driven to take her life. Less evident to the general reading public was that Birthday Letters extends a dialogue between Plath and Hughes on the nature of poetry and poetic identity that began in their courtship. Plath felt that Hughes initiated her into a strong feminine voice, and she, in turn, was responsible for introducing Hughes’s poems, perceived as infused with violence and virility, to an American audience. The poems that made Plath famous posthumously, however, were written in response to her separation from Hughes and to his extramarital affair, and were collected in a volume titled Ariel that was altered by Hughes and published after her death. This course will explore the Plath-Hughes marriage, both biographically and poetically. Topics may include: the conflict between Plath’s confessional sensibility and Hughes’s sense of her intrusion on their private life; the role of biography generally in literary interpretation; the vilification of Hughes by feminists and the impact they had on both his poetry and the way he published Plath’s poems, journals, and novel; and the extent to which some of Hughes’s final publications constitute having the last word on both personal and poetic disagreements with his dead wife.
The Class: Format: discussion/seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3627
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, four or five papers of varying lengths including one revision, and occasional oral reports
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course
Enrollment Preferences: sophomores who have not taken a Gateway course in English
Unit Notes: meets post-1900, Criticism and Gateway requirements in English major only if registration is under ENGL formerly ENGL 356
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under ENGL; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under WGST
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL 262 Division I WGST 262 Division II
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses

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