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.
Collecting, Curating, and Researching Writers’ Libraries, edited by Richard W. Oram and Joseph Nicholson to be published by Scarecrow Press, Rowman & Littlefield, in 2014.
Collecting, Curating, and Researching Writers’ Libraries, edited by Richard W. Oram and Joseph Nicholson, will be published by Scarecrow Press, Rowman & Littlefield in 2014. My contribution to this volume, "Anne Sexton's Modern Library," is the first essay to address Sexton’s personal library, housed in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This essay considers Sexton’s annotating strategies in the context of her academic self-fashioning, particularly regarding the writers she began to read and annotate as she attended Philip Rahv’s literature course at Brandeis University in the summer of 1960.
Here is the editors’ description of the volume:
Although there are many bibliographies and reconstructions of the private libraries belonging to individual authors and to “association copies,” this is the first general consideration of these libraries, many of which in academic collections. In recent years, book historians have become considerably more interested in the study of provenance, while literary scholars have devoted more attention to authorial annotations. At the same time, the Internet has encouraged both scholarly and hobbyist reconstructions of private libraries (see, for example, the “Legacy Libraries” on Librarything.com). This collection begins with principal editor Richard Oram’s historical overview of writers’ libraries and institutional collecting, focusing primarily on English-language authors. The co-editor, Joseph Nicholson, has provided a definitive review of best cataloging and arrangement practices that facilitate scholarly access. The bookseller Kevin Mac Donnell discusses the marketing of these collections and obstacles to placing intact author libraries in institutions. Also included are case studies by Amanda Golden and David Faulds relating to the personal libraries of the poets Anne Sexton and Ted Hughes, indicating how these collections have the potential to enhance archival research. Fiction writers Iain Sinclair, Russell Banks, Jim Crace, poet Ted Kooser, and biographer Ron Powers describe their (sometimes passionate) relationship with books. The concluding chapter, a location guide to over 500 individual libraries, will be invaluable to scholars and librarians who want to know where writers’ libraries are currently located, what happened to them (if they are known to have been sold or dispersed), and what has been written about them.