Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The 50th Anniversary of Plath's THE BELL JAR

The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. The much-mythologized poet's only novel, The Bell Jar was originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The story follows young Esther Greenwood and her brief stint in New York interning at a high-profile women's magazine. But while the amusements of a summer in the city may have induced euphoria for some, Esther delves deeper and deeper into depression as the novel progresses,  grappling with the confines of her circumstances and identity in the staggeringly patriarchal world of mid-20th-century America.

The Bell Jar is, at the very least, a semi-autobiographical account of Plath's own battle with depression (she committed suicide one month after the first UK publication of her novel). In fact, Esther's summer in New York is mirrored by Plath's own summer spent there, ten years before The Bell Jar's publication. This spring, Harper is publishing Elizabeth Winder's Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953, which follows this period in Plath's life. A guest editor for Mademoiselle's college issue, Plath was introduced to all the glamour and excitement of New York City. But what would follow was, in Plath’s words, twenty-six days of pain, parties, and work, that ultimately changed the course of her life.

As a side note, a UK publisher's 50th anniversary edition of Plath's seminal work has created a lot of online controversy...and parody. Follow this link if you want to see the new UK cover, along with a slew of satirical cover suggestions.

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