Sylvia Plath’s Transnational Identity

  • Julie Irigaray

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Between 1955 and 1963, Sylvia Plath moved back and forth between the USA and England. Cultural gaps and feelings of uprootedness found their way into Plath’s writing, but with the exception of scholars like Tracy Brain and Paul Giles, there has been a tendency in academia not to take this into account. Yet identity is a concept which preoccupied Plath throughout her life: her position as a first- and second-generation American is a complex one, and her letters, diaries, novel, poems and short stories reveal a clear dichotomy between Plath’s American identity and her sense of belonging in England. Plath’s attraction for other European countries like France is also essential to get a better picture of her transnational identity. She spoke French fluently and intended to move to France at some stage. Plath was heavily influenced by French culture, and her reading of French literature has been widely overlooked by scholars despite the fact that she borrowed techniques and ideas from French authors. This thesis examines Plath’s transnational identity by analysing how she defined Americanness, criticised her native and adoptive countries, as well as the impact of French literature and her trips to France on her writing. By studying her identity as a foreigner in England, an outsider in her own country, a woman in a mixed-nationality marriage, and a writer with connections with France, this thesis seeks to answer the pivotal question: how did Plath’s transnational identity shape her work?
Date of Award10 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHeather Clark (Main Supervisor) & James Underwood (Co-Supervisor)

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