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Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers
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Depicted in popular films, television series, novels, poems, and countless media reports, Sylvia Plath’s women readers have become nearly as legendary as Plath herself, in large part because the depictions are seldom kind. If one is to believe the narrative told by literary and popular culture, Plath’s primary audience is a body of young, misguided women who uncritically—even pathologically—consume Plath’s writing with no awareness of how they harm the author’s reputation in the process. Janet Badia investigates the evolution of this narrative, tracing its origins, exposing the gaps and elisions that have defined it, and identifying it as a bullying mythology whose roots lie in a long history of ungenerous, if not outright misogynistic, rhetoric about women readers that has gathered new energy from the backlash against contemporary feminism. More than just an exposé of our cultural biases against women readers, Badia’s research also reveals how this mythology has shaped the production, reception, and evaluation of Plath’s body of writing, affecting everything from the Hughes family’s management of Plath’s writings to the direction of Plath scholarship today. Badia discusses a wide range of texts and issues whose significance has gone largely unnoticed, including the many book reviews that have been written about Plath’s publications; films and television shows that depict young Plath readers; editorials and fan tributes written about Plath; and Ted and (daughter) Frieda Hughes’s writings about Plath’s estate and audience.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. pp. i-iii
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  1. Title Page
  2. pp. iv-iv
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  1. Copyright Page
  2. pp. v-vi
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  1. Table of Contents
  2. pp. vii-vii
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  1. Preface
  2. pp. ix-x
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. xii-xv
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  1. Introduction: “There Is No Such Thing as a Death Girl”: Literary Bullying and the Plath Reader
  2. pp. 1-24
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  1. Chapter 1. “Dissatisfied, Family-Hating Shrews”: Women Readers and the Politics of Plath’s Literary Reception
  2. pp. 25-60
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  1. Chapter 2. “Oh, You Are Dark”: The Plath Reader in Popular Culture
  2. pp. 61-85
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  1. Chapter 3. “We Did Not Wish to Give the Impression”: Plath Fandom and the Question of Representation
  2. pp. 86-123
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  1. Chapter 4. “A Fiercely Fought Defense”: Ted Hughes and the Plath Reader
  2. pp. 124-154
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  1. Conclusion: “I Don’t Mean Any Harm”: Frieda Hughes, Plath Readers, and the Question of Resistance
  2. pp. 155-166
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 167-194
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 195-217
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  1. Back Cover
  2. pp. 218-218
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