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Title: The haunted reader and Sylvia Plath
Author: Crowther, Gail
ISNI:       0000 0004 2709 6583
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2010
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If, as Jacqueline Rose (1991) claims, Sylvia Plath is a ghost that haunts our culture, a ghost created from myths, stories and fantasies, then what happens to these myths and fantasies when they seep into the world at large? This piece of research aims to explore the notion of haunting. How does Sylvia Plath return and in what way does she inform the lives of her readers? This research collects, combines and critiques the 'creative autobiographies' of Plath 'reader-fans' and engages in the ongoing debates about the problematic nature of ethnography (Skeggs, 1995, Lawler, 2000) thus contributing to the methodological scholarship regarding the ethics of representation. By remaining reflexive about the use of primary data and by offering one possible reading of many, the method employed here attempts to further highlight the impossibility of a 'perfect' ethnography. Working with the 'creative autobiographies' of my respondents, the thesis explores how Plath's reader-fans negotiate their relationship with Plath via time, place, space, images and objects. Though influenced (methodologically) by feminists scholars such as Annette Kuhn (1995) and Caroline Steedman (1986) it draws primarily on Freudian theories ofidentification, loss and narcissism and Otto Rank's work on 'the double' in its attempt to explain the nature of the reader-fans' intense relationship to their icon. The thesis thus contributes to existing debates in fandom scholarship by theorising the role death appears to play in most forms of identificatory relationships between Plath and her readers. Equally, the thesis engages with the sociology of haunting (see Avery Gordon, 1997 and Kevin Hetherington, 2001) via place and mourning as well as work on cultural memory and visual/material culture. Using the notion of haunting as an instrument of social negotiation, I further question existing theorisation about the boundaries between the living and the dead. The role of place, the photograph, and objects, subject to both temporal and physical instability, are presented as powerful tools for mutual communication between the living and the dead. To explore exactly what or who may haunt a reader, this research also enters into debates concerning the 'author-function' and the active role of the reader in textproduction. Whereas Foucault (1984) and Barthes (1977b) argue that the text disperses the author at the centre of it, I, to a certain extent, reinstate the central role of the author and attempt to position the reader as a ghostly presence within the text. As such, this research is not about Sylvia Plath per se, but is what is left of her and how these remains are used.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available