- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (August 11, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1558498966
- ISBN-13: 978-1558498969
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,423,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers Paperback – August 11, 2011
"Badia's focus on how anxieties about feminism have shaped views of the Plath reader and the Plath reception more generally is sorely needed."―Susan Rosenbaum, author of Professing Sincerity: Modern Lyric Poetry, Commercial Culture, and the Crisis in Reading
"While Plath scholars have been aware for many years of the nasty portrayal of her critics and readers as somehow deluded and/or demented, Badia has pulled together an exhaustive study of how this came to be."―Lynda Bundtzen, author of The Other Ariel
"I found myself captivated, riveted, convinced and unable to let the book sit closed for too long. The book is so good and so finely written I was happy to lose sleep over it."―Peter K. Steinberg, Sylvia Path Info Blog
"The author displays her expertise in feminist history as well as Plath studies as she details common tropes associated with young female readers, including images of an uncritical consumer and reading-induced sickness. Badia's prose is clear and engaging; her argument is sophisticated and complex. Highly recommended."―Choice
"[Critic / reader tension is] inherent to a patriarchal literary cannon, and its best chance of being dispelled is when historically minded, critically thinking feminists write books like this one calling it out."―Bitch
"Badia marshals interesting and original research, and engages the examples Plath scholars will be expecting to see. Her reconstructions of some of the more infamous controversies and claims about Plath's readers are painstaking, and her careful unraveling does lead to the discovery that quite minor moments have taken on mythic significance through the amplification of a common rhetoric."―Plath Profiles
"Sometimes the rhetoric of the extreme used to draw attention to a movement will become the hook the media use to limit our understanding of the movement. More important overall, Badia leaves us with a sense that both male and female scholars and critics invested in patriarchal culture continue to perform a close reading of women readers in ways that mirror nineteenth-century critical assumptions and worry about those women readers, which should worry all of us. It appears that high art does have low readers, and as a result, low readers have high (anxiety) readers."―Reception: Texts, Readers, Audiences, History
"Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers exposes our cultural bias against women readers and reveals how the mythology has shaped the production and critical analysis of Plath's works, offering insights on book reviews, film and TV shows alike."―Midwest Review
"Badia's book is the best example of the fact that privileging one particular mode of reading always narrows down the polysemy and openness of a text; and as obvious, and at the same time as ironical, as it may sound, "Plath's readers are not a liability to her."―Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies
About the Author
Janet Badia is associate professor and director of women's studies at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne and coeditor of Reading Women: Literary Figures and Cultural Icons from the Victorian Age to the Present. Become a Fan on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PlathandWomenReaders
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Not being female - and I did check relatively recently - leaves me possibly at somewhat of a disadvantage to read, and to be so bold as to review, a book whose focus is squarely opposite to whatever faculties I bring to it as a result of my born gender. It is a deficiency I can do nothing about. But rather than shy away from Badia's book - and its use, reliance, and concern for feminist approaches - I found myself captivated, riveted, convinced and unable to let the book sit closed for too long. The book is so good and so finely written I was happy to lose sleep over it.
Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers both is and is not a book about Sylvia Plath. It does not engage in literary criticism of works Plath produced, but rather it chronicles and analyzes Plath's reception by her critics, her readers, and by her Estate and heirs. In brief...The first chapter examines "the anxieties about women readers that permeate the vast collection of to reviews written about Plath's work" situating "these anxieties not only within the context of Plath's career [and] within the broader discourse about gender and reading that has shaped literary culture over the past few decades" (25). Chapter Two investigates Plath as her work appears in popular culture and what that means for the public's understanding of Plath and her work. In doing so, Badia gives examples "which feature a young woman who reads Sylvia Plath's work" and "the ways in which [these instances] trivialize and even pathologize young women's reading" (63). In Chapter Three the focus turns from the popular culture (or, fictive), to "an examination of these real or historical readers, focusing in particular on the female fan culture that has surrounded Plath since the 1970s" (86). This is largely an expose on Robin Morgan's poem "Arraignment" and the heckling of Ted Hughes' public appearances, and the controversies surrounding Sylvia Plath's gravesite. As it stands, it is the most explicitly feminist-oriented chapter. The fourth chapter looks at "Ted Hughes and the Plath Reader," at his "opinion pieces, personal letters, and interviews, as well as selections from their [Frieda Hughes & Ted Hughes] poetry that speak, often quite directly, to the question of how each has regarded Plath's audience and her posthumous success" (125). The conclusion turns directly towards Frieda Hughes, who has taken a much more public approach to dealing with Plath's readers than her father had been.
In the Introduction, however, I found the most that I could relate to as a reader of Sylvia Plath. This is not to say that Badia's writing and focus on women readers will exclude those of the lesser sex. It doesn't. But I do hope it leads to discussion on this blog or via emails. And when it comes to "Literary Bullying and the Plath Reader" there is possibly a more likely chance that male readers are equally as women accused, unjustly, of reading Plath for "uncritical consumption" (7). At least, for this male reader of Plath, I feel this is the case. The central portion of the introduction I feel vilifies, rightly, literary bullying and cites as examples of such the writings of Judith Kroll, Jon Rosenblatt, Harold Bloom, Mary Lynn Broe, Tracy Brain, and Christina Britzolakis. These writers and critics (and teachers) are illustrative examples and not by any means a comprehensive list of offenders and Badia by no means discounts their work. Neither do I. As stated above, Badia's study does not concern itself with Plath's writings explicitly. But it does concern itself with how Plath's writings are consumed by her readers. Essentially there is a sharp divide between literary critics and, to use Badia's terms, those "uncritical" consumers of Plath's writings. Literary critics possess the faculties "to see the deeper meaning of Plath's poetry" (11). Uncritical consumers, or possibly the "generally educated" - regardless of their gender - apparently do not. But it is apparent that the "deeper meaning" some glean from any writers or artists work is a construction, a fabrication, a connecting of things that may or may not be present in the writing analyzed.
In that regard, literary criticism is a genre of fiction, something to which there is both a high degree of instability and improbability than something more fact based, such as Plath's biography. There are definable truths to Plath's life. That is not to say everything is known, but much is. And, in this light there are definable truths about Plath's creative writing as it pertains to its source of inspiration (her life, her emotional experiences, etc. The application of theoretical methodologies is perhaps the most damaging and unstable of them all in assessing the value of creative writing. When one reads, or wants to read, the (auto)biography into or out of Plath's creative works it does provide an opportunity, at least, to pin down something historically concrete and irrefutable into an otherwise wide open, limitless, shifting, and trending field of interpretation. What it comes down to is that no one way of reading is right and that no one way of reading is wrong. We may and we will and we should disagree, but often in the tones of voices employed by the critics that Badia mentions as bullies we (generally speaking the uncritical consumer, irregardless of gender) are made to feel wrong. It isn't lost on me that the tone of this review has turned aggressive and that I, too, am being a bully. This is intentional. In critics minds the generally educated seem to get it wrong because they over-identify with Plath's writing (and life) or perhaps read too much of Plath's life in her writing. That doesn't make Plath's writing confessional and it doesn't make Plath a confessional poet. It makes her universal to the human experience.
If you will allow me to step (further) onto my soapbox for a bit, isn't it just simply the point that people are reading? For example, I do not have the slightest interest in the Harry Potter books, but I enjoy the fact that they are popular and that people of all ages and backgrounds read and enjoy them. Sometimes even making readers out of non-readers! And as educators, shouldn't they (generally) be supportive of all possible meanings that those readers derive from the writing? Maybe not. But, who are they (generally) to say that someones interpretation is wrong or lesser? It's the appreciation of the work that matters. In a 1961 interview, Plath herself said, "And I don't have a single gripe about people not appreciating poetry. For example, I don't like water skiing myself, why should I complain if some other people don't like poetry" (Tyler)? Plath expanded this comment - and this illustrates my rambling point somewhat - in "Context," an essay she wrote in 1962: "Surely the great use of poetry is its pleasure...Certain poems and lines of poetry seems as miraculous to me as church altars or the coronation of queens must seem to people who revere quite different images. I am not worried that poems reach relatively few people. As it is, they go surprisingly far - among strangers, around the world, even. Farther than the words of a classroom teacher or the prescriptions of a doctor; if they are lucky, farther than a lifetime."
One thing about the book design I really love is the Notes section. Not only are the notes informative, but the header for each pages lists the page range in the text for the notes contained on that page. Simple, brilliant.
As for the cover. Not very impressed. Stereotypical comes to mind? I find the images of women in a bathtub and on top of a laundry machine a bit ... sexist? Maybe? Why exhibit women readers in this fashion? Is it meant to be tongue in cheek? The ghostly poem/letter extending down the page is beautiful.