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Kathleen Connors
Sylvia Plath Symposium 2012

Bethany Nolan
IU Communications

Last modified: Thursday, October 11, 2012

Readings, exhibits, music and films highlight symposium honoring the work of Sylvia Plath

Oct. 11, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In October 1962, just months before her death, Sylvia Plath wrote these words to her mother: "I am a genius of a writer; I have it in me. I am writing the best poems of my life … they will make my name."

Bee Listening

IUPUI Herron School of Art and Design photography professor Linda Adele Goodine's "Bee Listening" from her Seneca Honey series will be on display at the IU Art Museum as part of the Sylvia Plath Symposium 2012.

Print-Quality Photo

Fifty years later, scholars, poets and artists will gather at Indiana University Bloomington to celebrate Plath's "Ariel" collection and its October poems, recognizing what are now -- as Plath predicted -- considered some of the most important poems of the 20th century.

The Sylvia Plath Symposium 2012, Oct. 24 to 27, is a multidisciplinary event featuring poetry readings, scholarly presentations, exhibitions at the IU Art Museum and the Lilly Library, live music and a film gala at IU Cinema.

"We're expecting between 40 and 45 scholars and about two dozen artists and poets, so the environment will be very rich," said Kathleen Connors, symposium co-director, visiting scholar at the Department of English and guest curator at the IU Art Museum and the Lilly Library. "Plath's life story and writing spur intense interest from the public as well as the academy, which can blur the line between 'devotees' and 'scholars.' Our symposium will not only recognize her well-known October poems but will also celebrate what would have been Plath's 80th birthday on Oct. 27."

The symposium's first day events are for registrants only, but the remainder of the symposium is free and open to the public. While a complete schedule of presentations is available online, here are a few highlights:

  • Oct. 23, IU Art Museum. "A Self to Recover: Embodying Sylvia Plath's Ariel" will be on display at the museum through Feb. 4. The exhibition features work by Kristina Zimbakova, Boris Lurie, Stella Vine and Linda Adele Goodine, and it explores themes of subjugation and liberation found in Plath's work.
  • Through Dec. 15, Lilly Library. Seventy items from one of the nation's largest Plath collections will be on display in an exhibit titled "Transitions," which traces the poet's life through old diaries, books from her personal library and poetry drafts, as well as items such as her extravagant childhood paper dolls, suitcase and unpublished letters from husband Ted Hughes.
  • 6 p.m. Oct. 24, Monroe County Public Library. Live poetry reading with nine artists.
  • 8 p.m. Oct. 26, IU Cinema. The gala will open with the world premiere of "Morning Song," a piece for cello, violin and voice by Bloomington composer Lauren Bernofsky honoring Plath's eponymous 1961 poem, performed by Laurie Staring, Kit Boulding and Helen Ford. The cinema will then screen "Lady Lazarus" by the late filmmaker Sandra Lahire and three shorts: "Bee Asana: The Healing of Plath" by Goodine and Herb Vincent Peterson, introduced by Goodine; "The Girl Who Would be God," an animated film by Suzie Hanna and Tom Simmons, introduced by Hanna and Simmons; and a clip from Elizabeth Gray's play, "Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath," with an introduction by Plath scholar Tracy Brain, senior lecturer in English at the United Kingdom's Bath Spa University.
  • 6 p.m. Oct. 27, Woodburn Hall. A puppet act and dramatic dialogue titled "Blood Jet Is Poetry: The Shared Poetic Language of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes."

The exhibitions and film gala are part of IU's Fall 2012 Themester focus on "Good Behavior/Bad Behavior" and address a variety of issues such as Plath's self-representations, women's education and oppression in mid-20th-century society, pacifism and World War II culture.

The Sylvia Plath Symposium is sponsored by the Department of English, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, and co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research, College Arts and Humanities Institute, Creative Writing Program, Themester 2012, Ivy Tech, IU Art Museum, IU Cinema, Lilly Library and the Department of English Interdisciplinary Student Association.

NOTE: Indiana University has several faculty experts who are able to provide insights to members of the media on various aspects of Plath and her work. To reach those sources, contact Bethany Nolan at IU Communications at 812-855-6494 or