Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (iv, 52 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Helen R Elam

Committee Members

James D Lilley


American literature, Ariel, Sylvia Plath, The Colossus, Yaddo, Poets, American, Artist colonies

Subject Categories

American Literature | Arts and Humanities


Since Sylvia Plath's death in 1963 critics have not stopped trying to piece together her life and work. Most of their focus lies on her last collection, Ariel, widely considered her best work. This thesis looks at a lesser-known time, before Plath had even published her first book of poetry named "The Colossus." In 1959 Plath spends eleven weeks at a writer's residence in Saratoga Springs, New York called Yaddo. While there she produces some of her most mature work to date, dealing with difficult topics for the first time such as suicide and issues with her deceased father and overbearing mother. Her most successful poems from this period, such as "Poem for a Birthday" and "The Colossus," use strong imagery and dark humor in a way that foreshadows the Ariel voice to come three years later. Oddly, after her time at Yaddo, Plath does not produce another such poem for at least a year. This thesis suggests that it is Yaddo, the place, that allows Plath the space and the time to process events in her life and filter them through her poetic mind. Only when she can use her own life as material can she produce poetry true to herself and in a voice that feels most comfortable.