Andrew Chan Humanities and Social Science
Her Vision of the Sea: Reframing Sylvia Plath through Ecopoetry
While Sylvia Plath has not customarily been considered an ecopoet, many of her poems describe exchanges between the individual and the natural world. Scott Knickerbocker demonstrates how Plath’s work “expresses the wildness and vitality she craved in nature through language itself,” focusing on what he terms “sensuous poesis”, which “enact[s] through formal devices such as sound effects the speaker’s experience of the complexity, mystery, and beauty of nature.” My research continues in this vein, focusing specifically on how Plath herself related to the natural world, and the role she saw for herself within that greater world. Given her remarkable ability to perceive the smallest details of both the human and non-human world around her, the persistent critical interpretation of Plath’s poetry as written by a mentally ill author seems limited. It is more compelling to examine Plath, both biographically and poetically, not as pathologically self-absorbed, but instead as possessed of a remarkable consciousness with which she described the experience of an individual speaker navigating and interacting with their environment.