HLVB0071DU Comparative LItterature: The Literary Work: Sylvia Plath

Volume 2024/2025

Litteraturvidenskab BA


Sylvia Plath is one of the most prominent Postwar authors writing in English, most well known for her novel The BellJar (1963) and her last poetry collection Ariel (1965). Her life and death (e.g. her early success in America, her marriage to the British poet laureate Ted Hughes, her mental health struggles, and her suicide in 1965) made her susceptible to over-dramatized images of a fierce woman writer doomed to tragedy—from Robert Lowell’s comment that her late poems “are playing Russian roulette with six cartridges in the cylinder” to various depictions of Plath in popular culture. These gendered images will be subject to critical examination in this course. We will approach Plath’s oeuvre (esp. The Colossus and Other PoemsThe Bell Jar and Ariel) through nuanced close readings, challenging the reductive categorization of her work as “confessional poetry”. This work course is designed in parallel to “Litteraturteori- og Analyse 1” and we will practice textual analysis by using concepts introduced in Litteraturteori og -analyse 1 like voice, enunciation, narratology, rhythm, sound, figures, tropes and literary imagery. Plath’s texts are a good testing ground for affect theory as well as psychoanalytical, poetological, poststructuralist and ecocritical approaches. In order to take the autobiographical elements of Plath’s work into account, comparative intertextual readings of her diaries and letters will be included. Moreover, we will explore questions of orality (Plath’s radio recordings and the sonic qualities of her written poetry), textual genetics (the problematic first printed version of Ariel and Collected Poems, which were edited by Ted Hughes, in comparison to Plath’s manuscripts and drafts), and translation (esp. Mette Moestrup’s Danish translation of The Bell Jar). We will also look at literature inspired by Plath like Elin Cullhed’s Eufori.


This course includes references to suicide and mental health issues.

Primary Literature:

Students are required to obtain Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems (New York: Harper Collins 2002 or any other edition), The Bell Jar (London: Faber & Faber, 2001 or any other edition), and Ariel: The Restored Edition (New York: Harper Collins, 2004). You are encouraged to read these works before the course starts.


The other texts can be found at KB or will be uploaded to Absalon.


Examples of Secondary Literature (more information will follow):


Anna Tripp (1994).Saying ‘I’: Sylvia Plath as tragic author or feminist text?, Women: a cultural review, 5:3, 253-263, DOI: 10.1080/​09574049408578207


Malcom, Janet. The Silent Woman:Sylvia Plath And Ted Hughes. New York: Vintage, 1995.


Bronfen, Elisabeth. Sylvia Plath. Horndon: Northcote House, 2004.


Brain, Tracy. The Other Sylvia Plath. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2001.


Perloff, Marjorie G. “‘A Ritual for Being Born Twice’: Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar.’”

Contemporary Literature, vol. 13, no. 4 (Autumn 1972): 507–22.


Perloff, Majorie. “The Two Ariels: The (Re)making Of The Sylvia Plath Canon.” American Poetry Review, vol. 13, no. 6 (Nov./Dec. 1984): 10–18.


Rose, Jacqueline. The Haunting of Sylvia Plath. London: Virago, 1996.


Gubar, Susan. “Prosopopoeia and Holocaust Poetry in English: Sylvia Plath and Her Contemporaries.” The Yale Journal of Criticism, vol. 14 no. 1, 2001, p. 191-215. Project MUSE, https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1353/​yale.2001.0007.


Gubar, Susan. “‘The Blank Page’ and the Issues of Female Creativity.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 8, no. 2, 1981, pp. 243–63. JSTOR, http:/​/​www.jstor.org/​stable/​1343162. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.


Classroom teaching. The course will consist of presentations by the instructor, group work and joint close reading and textual analysis.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 293
  • Guidance
  • 1
  • Exam
  • 84
  • Total
  • 420
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Written assignment
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship