October 25, 2012

Sylvia Plath Symposium: Q&A with Kathleen Connors

Kathleen Connors ,a visiting scholar to IU's Department of English, is a co-director for the 2012 Sylvia Plath Symposium, which will be held October 24-27. The symposium features a dozen major Plath scholars, twenty eminent poets and artists, and over 40 panelists from ten countries. Here, Ms. Connors discusses Sylvia Plath in the context of "Good Behavior, Bad Behavior."

1. How does the topic of Sylvia Plath fit into Themester's theme of "Good Behavior, Bad Behavior"?

A number of lectures, films and the IU Art Museum and Lilly Library exhibits address controversial issues around Plath's famous Ariel poems the Symposium commemorates: the use of the Holocaust, war imagery and torture in art versus pacifism; Plath's self-personas presented in letters and journals that are "contrived/phony" versus "honest"; marital fidelity and traditional family values versus infidelity and selfishness; women’s education and oppression in mid-20th century culture versus female inclusion and empowerment; and Plath as an inspirational role model versus the poster child of madness and "dangerous influence."

2. What can students learn from the study of Sylvia Plath?

While often viewed in light of her illness and suicide, Sylvia Plath was an excellent student with a wide range of interests that she pursued in the face of hardships, obstacles and personal problems. Her life story and work demonstrate what can be achieved by hard work and employment of intellectual curiosity. Plath's prolific literary works address a wide range of cultural, personal and intellectual issues that are still relevant in the 21st century, ranging from analysis of gender in society, Cold War Culture and politics, the role of the artist and intellectual as cultural critic and teacher, female sexual and professional roles and identity in patriarchal society, and the role of self-examination and exploration of the psyche in self-understanding.

For more information about this event, visit http://sylviaplathsymposium2012.indiana.edu/. 

Rebecca Kimberly
Themester 2012 intern

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