When I began studying Sylvia Plath's manuscripts and personal library over a decade ago in the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College, I led tours for visiting scholars of the Plath sites. Today while I was back in the library, some scholars arrived and I began to make a Sylvia Plath Map of Northampton using Google Maps so that visitors could access it on their phones. The map includes captions and images. I will be adding to the map and also hope to indicate the places Plath lived and visited throughout the United States, England, and Europe. Peter Steinberg has located many of these places on his website and blog and many scholars have tracked down others, particularly in recent issues of the journal Plath Profiles.
I will be presenting "Evidence for Pedagogy: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Annotating Crime and Punishment" on the International Dostoevsky Society's panel, "New Approaches to Crime and Punishment," organized by Susan McReynolds (Northwestern University) at the 2015 Modern Language Association Convention in Vancouver, B.C. Further treatment of Plath and Hughes's marginalia and teaching will be in my forthcoming book Annotating Modernism: Marginalia and Pedgagogy from Virginia Woolf to the Confessional Poets (Ashgate 2015).
Here is a brief abstract of my talk:
While she was teaching first year English at Smith College in 1958, Sylvia Plath annotated a Penguin paperback copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866), which she then handed to her husband Ted Hughes to use when he taught the novel in his Great Books course at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. This copy of Crime and Punishment, housed with Hughes's library at Emory University, records their pedagogical engagement with the novel and its midcentury critical reception. As a reader, Hughes did not share Plath’s tendency to annotate his books and his response may have even surprised Plath. When her classmate at Newnham College had the audacity to add notes in pencil to one of the books Plath had annotated, she was outraged, “feeling my children had been raped, or beaten by an alien” (Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 226). Hughes proceeded to fill the entire novel with his own notes in black ink, pencil, and sometimes red pencil. In order to be thorough, at times he repeated points Plath had made or, in at least one instance, he underlined her comments and added his own. While Plath’s annotations engage midcentury critical interpretations of the text, Hughes’s notes suggest his adaptation of academic practices for his own purposes. As he made his way through the novel, Hughes wrote in available spaces, often adding brief remarks above Plath’s underlining and at the top of pages. The practicality of Hughes’s annotations provided a form of shorthand for teaching that also speaks to his approach to poetry. While Hughes desired to maintain his distance from academia throughout the rest of his career, this copy of Crime and Punishment records some of the ways that his interpretation of language, literature, and pedagogy existed in close proximity to Plath's marginalia and the critical contexts informing it.
For this year's South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference (SAMLA), I am presenting two papers. One is called "Sylvia Plath's Nighttown: Midcentury Marginalia in Plath's Copy of Ulysses" and it is part of an International James Joyce Foundation session. This paper examines Plath's annotations in her personal copy of Joyce's Ulysses, housed at Smith College, in the context of her reading of modernism at midcentury.
The second presentation, "After the Telegraph: Modernism and Technology," is part of a panel that I organized called "Teaching Modernism in the Digital World," which will address using digital tools to teach modernist poetry, fiction, music, and visual art. This session features presentations by Sarah Terry (Oglethorpe University), Margaret Konkol (Georgia Institute of Technology), and Julie Phillips Brown (Virginia Military Institute). It will be chaired by Amy Elkins (Emory University).