Trivia Tuesdays: The Sylvia Plath Effect

We all heard about her and her unprecedentedly kick-ass way of bidding the world farewell: Sylvia Plath and her legendary death in the oven. She, of the confessional poetry and inherent college-girl coolness, has been the constant icon of many young female aspiring poets, myself included. For a very long time, and if I’ll be completely honest, even sometimes these days, I have always romanticized her misery and demise as a requisite for writing and for artistry. Ashes, for sashes.

What’s interesting is that a formal study based on actual research findings have actually taken this into account, resulting apparently in what has been therefore coined back in 2001 as The Sylvia Plath Effect.

This phenomenon, according to Psychologist James C. Kaufman, proves that female poets are far more vulnerable to mental illness than other creative writers and likelier to suffer from mental illness than other eminent women, such as politicians, actresses, and artists. Next year, it’s going to be half a century from the fateful anniversary of her death and yet her life story, drama behind the literature notwithstanding, lives on.

“I fret for Sylvia.
She appears anchored

to the idea of sinking,
which is silly when she so clearly

soars above almost everyone.”

― Stephanie Hemphill, Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath


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