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March 26, 2008

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Long-ago letters that poet Sylvia Plath dispatched to her college friends will be featured during a symposium at her alma mater, Smith College, which promises insight into her personal as well as her professional life through her writings.

On Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26, Smith will host the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium in commemoration of the alumna’s birthday. All sessions are free and open to the public. Click here for the full schedule.

The symposium will begin Friday at 7 p.m. with a community reading of Plath’s final book of poetry, “Ariel,” in the Mortimer Rare Book Room on the third floor of Neilson Library.  Anyone is welcome to read; participants are invited to sign up and choose a poem upon arrival. 

Among the panel discussions scheduled is one with Plath’s friends, college roommate Marcia Brown Stern ’54, boyfriend Philip McCurdy and classmate Elinor Friedman Klein ’56. That discussion, at 7:30 p.m. April 26, will be introduced by President Carol T. Christ and moderated by Smith Professor and Plath scholar Susan Van Dyne.

Several other world-renowned Plath scholars will discuss their research throughout the event. Those include Karen Kukil, associate curator of special collections at Smith and editor of the “Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath”; Lynda Bundtzen, Herbert H. Lehman Professor of English at Williams College and author of “The Other Ariel” and “Mourning Eurydice”; and Richard Larschan, English professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and producer of two educational videos about Plath. Discussions will cover such varied topics as war and politics, motherhood, and her husband Ted Hughes.

The Smith symposium expands upon a conference held at the University of Oxford in October, which brought together speakers from all over the world to discuss the current scholarship surrounding Plath’s work. Aubrey Menard, a Smith senior who spoke at Oxford, organized the campus event as a component of her special studies project under the supervision of Associate Professor of English Cornelia Pearsall.

The symposium is sponsored by the Smith College Endowed Lecture Fund, Smith College Alumnae Association, Ruth Mortimer Rare Book Fund, Friends of the Smith College Library, Program for the Study of Women and Gender, Department of English Language and Literature and American Studies Program.

For information about disability access or to request accommodations, please call (413) 585-2407. To request a sign language interpreter specifically, call (413) 585-2071 (voice or TTY) or e-mail All requests must be made at least 10 days prior to the event.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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