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Sylvia Plath was an American poet and novelist best known for her semi-autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar,” and her poetry collections “The Colossus and Other Poems” and “Ariel.” She became the first person to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously.
See the fact file below for more information on the Sylvia Plath or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Sylvia Plath worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
- Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts.
She was born to Otto Plath, a German professor and entomologist, and Aurelia Schober Plath, an American of Austrian descent.
- Plath’s brother Warren was born in 1935, then a year later, their family moved to her mother’s hometown in Winthrop, Massachusetts.
- At a young age of eight, Plath began publishing poems in regional publications.
- She started keeping a journal when she was eleven years old, which all the more fueled her interest in writing.
- After her father died in 1940, Sylvia turned away from her Unitarian faith and their family moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts.
- After attending Bradford Senior High School in Wellesley and being published in a national publication shortly after graduation, Plath won a scholarship to Smith College, a private women’s liberal arts college, in 1950.
- She excelled academically in college.
- During the summer of 1953, Plath worked as a guest editor for Mademoiselle magazine in New York City.
- Plath was clinically depressed and briefly received electroconvulsive therapy prior to her first suicide attempt on August 24, 1953.
- She tried to kill herself by taking her mother’s sleeping pills.
- She survived the attempt and subsequently received psychiatric treatment and care.
- She eventually recovered and returned to Smith, finishing her degree in 1955.
WRITING CAREER AND MARRIAGE TO TED HUGHES
- Plath moved to England after obtaining a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Newnham College, a woman-only college at the University of Cambridge.
- She continued writing poetry in Newnham College. A number of her literary pieces were published in the student newspaper Varsity.
- She also met poet Ted Hughes at Newnham College, who became her husband in 1956.
- They married on June 16, 1956 in London.
- In 1957, they moved back to Massachusetts where she spent time teaching English at Smith College until 1958.
- While in Massachusetts, she also studied in the seminars conducted by poet Robert Lowell, who encouraged her to write based on her real experiences.
- In 1959, she returned to England. The following year, her first poetry collection entitled “The Colossus” was published.
- The Colossus received good reviews.
- In 1960, she also gave birth to her and Ted’s first child, Frieda Rebecca Hughes.
- In 1961, she became pregnant for the second time but the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.
- In 1962, Plath gave birth to their second child, Nicholas Farrar Hughes.
- Also in 1962, the couple’s marriage became problematic, with Ted Hughes having an affair, leading to the couple’s separation.
- After the separation, Plath fell into severe depression but also experienced a great outburst of productivity, producing a novel and a number of poems that would constitute a posthumous poetry collection.
THE BELL JAR
- In 1963, her semi-autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar” was published in London.
- She published it under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.
- It was the only novel written by Sylvia Plath.
- The Bell Jar is about a young woman in college who wants to be a poet, later becomes an intern for a magazine in New York City, and experiences mental breakdown.
- The Bell Jar is considered a roman à clef for having parallels with Plath’s own depressive episodes, mental breakdown, and hospitalization.
- A month after the novel’s first UK publication, Plath committed suicide.
- In 1967, the novel was published under Plath’s real name for the first time.
- The novel was published in the United States in 1971, and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages since.
SUICIDE AND POSTHUMOUS WORK
- In June 1962, Plath made another suicide attempt by driving her car off the side of the road and into a river. She survived the attempt.
- In the same year “The Bell Jar” was published, Plath also wrote poems that would make up the collection “Ariel” (posthumously published in 1965).
- Her poems revealed much of her anxiety, depression, and past traumas.
- Plath committed her fatal suicide on February 11, 1963.
- In 1971, her previously unpublished poems were published posthumously in small collections such as “Crossing the Water” and “Winter Trees”.
- In 1981, a posthumous collection of Plath’s poems from 1956 until her death was published as “The Collected Poems.” It was edited by her former husband Ted Hughes.
- “The Collected Poems” received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for poetry award in 1982, making Plath the first person to receive a posthumous Pulitzer Prize award.
- In 2000, “The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath” was published, containing her journal entries from 1950 to 1962.
Sylvia Plath Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Sylvia Plath across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Sylvia Plath worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Sylvia Plath who was an American poet and novelist best known for her semi-autobiographical novel “The Bell Jar,” and her poetry collections “The Colossus and Other Poems” and “Ariel.” She became the first person to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Sylvia Plath Facts
- Simply Sylvia Plath
- Truth or Lies
- Her One and Only Novel
- Poetry vs. Prose
- Poem Interpretation
- Journal Entries
- A Letter to Plath
- Mental Illness Glossary
- Suicide Prevention
- My Confessional Poem
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