The John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Program 2013

Birss Lecture Series 2013

Commemorating The 50th anniversary of the publication of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts on October 27, 1932. Plath met and married British poet Ted Hughes, although the two later split. The depressive Plath committed suicide in 1963, garnering accolades after her death for the novel The Bell Jar, and the poetry collections "The Colossus" and "Ariel." In 1982, Plath became the first person to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.


The Bell Jar at 50
Karen V. Kukil
Special Collections Librarian
Smith College
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
3:30 p.m. - Global Heritage Hall G01

Resources on Sylvia Plath


Plath, Sylvia (Author)
Plath, Sylvia (Subject)

Web resources:

Smith College Libraries, Mortimer Rare Book Room
The rare book and manuscript collection is an adjunct to the curriculum of the college, a laboratory for the exploration of material culture. Shelved around the walls in the handsome wood-paneled reading room are substantial holdings in English and American literature, botany, history of science, economics, early children's literature, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English drama and political pamphlets, early lithographic books, British phonology and lexicography, and nineteenth-century American trade cards. Included in this collection is an extensive assemblage of books and manuscripts by Sylvia Plath.

Smith College Libraries, College Archives: Sylvia Plath Hughes Papers
Contains biographical information, photographs, press releases, and writings by and about Plath, who completed her undergraduate education at Smith College and was employed as a Professor of English for one academic year (1957-1958).

A celebration, this is
A celebration, this is, a website for Sylvia Plath, is maintained by Peter K. Steinberg, author of the book Sylvia Plath (2004), the "Introduction" to the British Library's The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath (2010), and numerous articles on Plath which have appeared in Fine Books & Collections, Notes & Queries, and Plath Profiles.  It includes information about Sylvia Plath’s life, poetry and prose; a gallery of photographs and book covers; a bibliography of books by and about Sylvia Plath; and a list of online resources.

Modern American Poetry:  Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
The Modern American Poetry Site is a comprehensive learning environment and scholarly forum for the study of modern and contemporary American poetry.  Started as a multimedia companion to the Anthology of Modern American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2000), MAPS has grown over the past decade to more than 30,000 pages of biographies, critical essays, syllabi and images relating to 161 poets. Criticism can be viewed through the classic list of poets and through the new poet search page, where poets can be searched alphabetically, chronologically by birth date, by race/ethnicity, and by group/school of poetry. MAPS is maintained by the Department of English, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The Poetry Foundation:  Sylvia Plath
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience.

The Poetry Foundation works to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in American culture. Rather than celebrating the status quo, the Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry. In the long term, the Foundation aspires to alter the perception that poetry is a marginal art, and to make it directly relevant to the American public.

Established in 2003 upon receipt of a major gift from philanthropist Ruth Lilly, the Poetry Foundation evolved from the Modern Poetry Association, which was founded in 1941 to support the publication of Poetry magazine. The gift from Ruth Lilly has allowed the Poetry Foundation to expand and enhance the presence of poetry in America and has established an endowment that will fund Poetry magazine in perpetuity.


Sylvia Plath
Documentary film produced by South Carolina Educational Television Network, a New York Center for Visual History production; directed and produced by Lawrence Pitkethly ; co-producer, Sasha Alpert. New York: New York Center for Visual History [producer]; Santa Barbara, California: the Annenberg/CPB Project, Intellimation [distributor], c1988.

Released on PBS under the auspices of The National Endowment for the Humanities as part of The Annenberg/CPB Collection Project. The life and career of American poet, Sylvia Plath, related through photographs, dramatizations, readings from her works and anecdotal commentary by her mother, her teachers, various friends and other poets and writers.

Sylvia Plath interviewed by Peter Orr of the British Council 30 October 1962  ( 
Recorded interview in which Plath discusses her views on poetry, prose and her creative process.


13th Annual Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Library Exhibition

February 1 – March 10, 2013
Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Bell Jar

Featuring items courtesy of:
Sylvia Plath Collection
Mortimer Rare Book Room
Smith College Libraries
Northampton, Massachusetts
Redwood Library
Newport, Rhode Island

Sponsored by: The Professor John Howard Birss, Jr. Memorial Library Fund

Prepared by:
Professor Christine S. FaganCollection Development / Acquisitions Librarian
Roger Williams University
Karen V. KukilAssociate Curator of Special Collections
Smith College Libraries

Featured Items:

  • First edition of The Bell Jar published by Heinemann in England under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas (1963)
  • First American edition of The Bell Jar published by Harper & Row (1971)
  • Facsimile of Sylvia Plath’s holograph outline for The Bell Jar (1961)
  • Royal manual typewriter owned by Sylvia Plath, 1950’s
  • Original typescript of “Dirge,” annotated by Alfred Young Fisher, [1955]
  • Original typescript of “Mad Girl’s Love Song”, 1959
  • Correspondence between Sylvia Plath and her publishers.
  • Articles from the Boston Herald regarding Sylvia Plath’s attempted suicide, 1953.
  • [Study of a Woman], gouache and ink, [cs. 1950-1952]
  • Reviews from various sources upon the publication of The Bell Jar, 1963.
  • Death Certificate of Sylvia Plath, certified copy from the General Register Office, Somerset House, London
  • Correspondence between Aurelia Plath, Sylvia’s mother, and Olwyn Hughes, sister of Ted Hughes, regarding the potential publication of The Bell Jar in the United States, 1968.
  • Page Images from Eugene D. Fleming, "Psychiatry and Beauty" Cosmopolitan Vol. 146, no. 6 (June1959)
    In her journal, Sylvia Plath resolves to write a novel about a college girl suicide after reading the June 1959 issue of Cosmopolitan cover to cover.
    pages:  31323334353637385758596061

Additional resources produced by the Library in support of this event include:
Sylvia Plath and The Bell Jar:  A Selective Bibliography
Selected titles located on the Featured Collection display case near the Bestsellers Collection