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This article traces the extent of Sylvia Plath's engagement with the Irish modernist, James Joyce. It contributes to a significant strand of Plath scholarship by increasing knowledge of the literary networks Plath and her work engages. It does so by first examining the evidence extant in her published work and archive. It establishes Plath's long-standing interest in Joyce's writing, and traces in her notes and marginalia a consistent focus on Joyce as artistic example. It then establishes a relationship between Plath's reading of Joyce and the künstlerroman genealogy that Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and The Bell Jar share. This article shows that The Bell Jar self-consciously performs Joyce's influence, with his Finnegans Wake featuring prominently in The Bell Jar as an alienating canonical authority. Finally, in showing The Bell Jar's departure from the linearity and self-assuredness of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, it identifies Plath's künstlerroman as superseding the modernist conventions performed by A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This paper thus traces the twin imperatives of Joyce's influence identifiable in Plath's reading and writing; a recursive tendency, emphasizing Plath's literary tradition, and a focus on the past, and a heuristic tendency, advocating for Plath's own innovation, looking to the future.