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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

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Activities: Author Activities

Sylvia Plath - Teaching Tips

Back Back to Sylvia Plath Activities
  • Students often have difficulty separating the poet from the speaker in Plath's poems. A productive discussion of Plath's work must consider her relationship to confessional poetry and the place of biography within that context. While it is indisputable that Plath draws on her personal life in her poems, many of the details are purposely exaggerated or misrepresented. In other words, biography is often a starting place, but Plath's genius lies in the ability to transform the personal into something more general, or as some readers and critics have put it, into something mythical.

  • Introduce your students to the idea of a dramatic monologue by having them read Emily Dickinson's "I heard a fly buzz when I died." How does the speaker in Plath's "Daddy" perform in a similar manner? How might this also be read as a dramatic monologue? Try to avoid discussion of sensationalized stories about the poet's life.

  • Readers often overlook the wit and cleverness in Plath's poetry. Often quite funny and refreshingly honest, Plath is one of the great metaphor-makers in modern poetry. Begin your study of Plath with poems like "Morning Song" and "Child," which show the tender and witty side of Plath as she writes about the wonder, joy, confusion, and fear of motherhood.

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