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Title: Bible of Dreams : the cultural work of Sylvia Plath's short fiction.
Author: Tovey, Julie Anne.
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2000
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Sylvia Plath has become the poetic icon of a post-war, Anglo-American literary culture. Yet her short stories are persistently read as semi-autobiographical, or in the context of her poetry, and have so far remained deprived of close critical attention as a collection of work. This thesis argues that the marginalisation of Plath's short stories is the result of a high-cultural agenda to privilege her work as a poet, and considers the impact of Birthday Letters and its role in this context. It suggests that this reading of Plath's work replays the most oppressive aspects of her culture, which she sought to challenge in her short stories. It also aims to redress this marginalisation, reading her stories against the cultural context within which they were written: the popular psychological and sociological texts, films and comic strip super-heroes which simultaneously influenced and defined the period. In asserting the social, historical and political significance of Plath's writing it argues that, whilst working within popular fictional forms and generic conventions, Plath's textual strategies - including irony and parody - enable her narratives to enact these conventions excessively, challenging the manifest content and resolution. The thesis asserts that Plath's short stories expose the political investment in culturally constructed images of a passive, domestic femininity as a means of ensuring social stability and political conformity at the beginning of the Cold War. Her writing explores the effects upon women of living within a highly gendered culture and the consequences of the cultural imperative to approximate images of femininity which had been culturally constructed. However, the thesis argues that, in the interplay between the manifest and latent content of the texts, Plath's stories disruptively reveal that which has proved most disturbing and threatening to patriarchal culture, marking the return of that which has been culturally repressed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available