News & Events > Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Smith College

Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Smith College

Conference Schedule | Contact Information | Sponsors | Parking

April 25-26, 2008 - See the complete schedule of events.

A number of faculty and curators from local colleges and universities participated in the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at the University of Oxford, 25-27 of October, 2007. Smith was represented by Karen Kukil, Associate Curator of Special Collections, Cornelia Pearsall, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature, Marcia Brown Stern '54, Judith Kroll '64, and Aubrey Menard '08.

As a component of her special studies project in the spring of '08, Aubrey Menard organized a two-day version of the Oxford conference at Smith College. Kukil, Pearsall, and Menard invited local scholars to share their papers with students and the public.

All events were free and open to the public. See the schedule of events. Also, see information about parking.

The conference was made possible through the generous support of these sponsors. For more information, please see contacts.

Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium poster

Sylvia Plath with Typewriter in Yorkshire, September 1956, courtesy of the Mortimer Rare Book Room
Order notecards or a poster.

The Oxford Conference brought speakers from all over the world together, allowing scholars to share new discoveries and discuss upcoming projects pertaining to Plath. The Smith College conference expanded this dialogue to include students and admirers of Plath’s poetry, allowing a greater community to learn more about the poet and current scholarship surrounding her work. This conference was unique in that it hosted several of Plath’s friends who each read a letter they received from Plath and reflected upon it, sharing their insight with the audience. Through the combination of talks from both scholars and friends, conference participants had the opportunity to consider Plath both academically and personally, celebrating the 75th birthday of one of Smith College’s great alumnae.

Schedule of Events

All events were free and open to the public.

Friday, April 25, 2008 - Mortimer Rare Book Room, Neilson Library, 3rd floor
7:00 pm Community Reading of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel - Participants will sign up to read a poem upon arrival. We welcome anyone to join us to read a poem from the Ariel collection.
Saturday, April 26, 2008 - Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall
8:30-9:15 am Continental Breakfast
9:15-9:30 am Introductory Remarks
9:30-11 am

Sylvia Plath, Women, and Motherhood - Helen Decker, Moderator

Sylvia Plath’s Women and Poetry - Karen V. Kukil, Associate Curator of Special Collections at Smith College, editor of the Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath and coauthor of exhibition catalog “No Other Appetite”: Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and the Blood Jet of Poetry.

“Two Roses”: Sylvia Plath’s Entrance into the Matrilineal Cycle - Aubrey Menard, Smith College Class of 2008.

Libretto and Imagination: On Writing "Sylvia and the Moon" - Annie Finch, Poet and director of the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine.

11-11:30 am Coffee and Tea Break
11:30 am-1 pm

Plath and Hughes - Ellen Doré Watson, Moderator

"The endless gladitorial event": Who was Hughes as Plath's editor? - Susan Van Dyne, Professor of the Study of Women and Gender at Smith College and author of Revising Life: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems.

Confession, Contrition, and Concealment in Ted Hughes’s Howls and Whispers - Lynda K. Bundtzen, Herbert H. Lehman Professor English at Williams College and author of The Other Ariel and Mourning Eurydice: Ted Hughes as Orpheus in Birthday Letters.

The Dead Mother Complex between Plath and Hughes - Dianne Hunter, Professor of English at Trinity College.

Plath and Hughes Redivivus: 'Venus in the Seventh.' - Heather Clark, Assistant Professor of English at Marlboro College.

1-2:30 pm Lunch
2:30-4 pm

Putting Plath in Context - Luke Ferretter, Moderator

“What Mightn’t the Sea Bequeath?”: Plath’s Mythical Massachusetts - Richard J. Larschan, Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts in North Dartmouth and producer of two educational videos about Sylvia Plath.

'I Should be Loving This': Sylvia Plath’s "The Perfect Place" and The Bell Jar - Peter K. Steinberg, Recently completed a masters degree in library science at Simmons College, webmaster of two Plath-related sites, and author of Sylvia Plath.

Sylvia Plath, Race, and White Womanhood - Dorothy Wang, Assistant Professor of American Studies at Williams College.

4-4:30 pm Coffee and Tea Break
4:30-6 pm

Plath on War and Politics - Judith Glazer-Raymo, Moderator

Plath and Global Politics - Patrick O'Connor, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

“Wars, wars, wars”: Plath’s Martial Arts - Cornelia Pearsall, Associate Professor of English at Smith College and author of Tennyson’s Rapture.

Plath’s German - Langdon Hammer, Chair of the English Department at Yale University and contributor to Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath’s Art of the Visual (Oxford University Press, 2007).

6-7:30 pm Dinner for speakers and guests at the Smith College Alumnae House
7:30-9 pm  

Evening Panel - moderated by Susan Van Dyne
Introductory remarks by Carol Christ

People who knew and corresponded with Sylvia Plath will each read a letter and comment on its significance, followed by questions from the audience. Panelists will include:

Marcia Brown Stern ’54, Smith Roommate and Friend of Sylvia Plath
Elinor Friedman Klein ’56, Friend of Sylvia Plath
Judith Kroll '64, Acquaintance of Aurelia Plath and Others
Philip McCurdy, Former Boyfriend of Sylvia Plath

Contact Information

Aubrey Menard '08
(413) 585-6140

Karen Kukil, Associate Curator, Mortimer Rare Book Room
(413) 585-2908

Cornelia Pearsall, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature
(413) 585-3346


This symposium is made possible through the generous support of:

The Smith College Endowed Lecture Fund
The Smith College Alumnae Association
The Ruth Mortimer Rare Book Fund
Friends of the Smith College Library
The Program for the Study of Women and Gender
The Department of English Language and Literature
The Smith College Poetry Center


On Saturday all the Smith College campus lots are open parking. The Dickinson Lot is next to Neilson Library and there is a parking garage on West Street near Forbes Library. There are also parking lots down by the Ainsworth Gym. You can park in any white-lined space on April 26. See the campus map.

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