The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

ISBN : 9780199558193

Heather Clark
272 Pages
165 x 241 mm
Pub date
Dec 2010
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Throughout their marriage, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes engaged in a complex and continually evolving poetic dialogue about writing, love, and grief. Although scholars have commented extensively on the biographical details of Plath's and Hughes's marriage, few have undertaken a systematic intertextual analysis of the poets' work. The Grief of Influence reappraises this extraordinary literary partnership, and shows that the aesthetic and ideological similarities that provided a foundation for Plath's and Hughes's creative marriage - such as their mutual fascination with D. H. Lawrence and motifs of violence and war - intensified their artistic rivalry. Through close readings of both poets' work and analysis of new archival sources, Clark reveals for the first time how extensively Plath borrowed from Hughes and Hughes borrowed from Plath. She also explores the transatlantic dynamics of Plath's and Hughes's 'colonial' marriage within the context of the 1950s Anglo-American poetry scene and demonstrates how each poet's misreadings of the other contributed to the damaging stereotypes that now dominate the Plath-Hughes mythology. Following Plath and Hughes through alternating periods of collaboration and competition, The Grief of Influence shows how each poet forged a voice both through and against the other's, and offers a new assessment of the twentieth century's most important poetic partnership.


1. Affinities and Assimilations
2. Secret Anxieties
3. The Other Two
4. Colonial Contexts
5. The Early Dialogue
6. Disarming the Enemy
7. Tracking the Thought-Fox
8. Hughes's Plath
9. Crow and Counter-revision
10. The Old Factory Demolished: Wodwo to Moortown
11. Fixed Stars: Birthday Letters

About the author: 

Heather Clark is Professor of Literature at Marlboro College and teaches Irish Studies at NYU's Glucksman Ireland House. She is the author of The Ulster Renaissance: Poetry in Belfast 1962-1972 (OUP, 2006), which won the Donald Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Book and the Robert Rhodes Prize for Books on Literature from the American Conference for Irish Studies. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Emory University's Manuscript, Archive, and Rare Book Library, and reviews Irish poetry regularly for the Harvard Review. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.

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