Please join us as Roosevelt House marks the 60th anniversary of the death, and 90th anniversary of the birth year, of one of the 20th century’s most essential writers: Sylvia Plath. To commemorate these anniversaries, The Sylvia Plath Symposium at Hunter College will bring together some of the nation’s foremost scholars, authors, performers, and activists to celebrate and explore the enduring power of Sylvia Plath’s prose and poetry. Among those featured will be feminist icons Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan and acclaimed authors Susan Cheever, Mark Doty, Honor Moore,Vijay Seshadri, Donna Masini, and others.
Conceived and produced by leading Plath biographer and Hunter College professor of English Paul Alexander, and co-sponsored by the Department of English, the MFA Creative Writing Program, and the Department of Women and Gender Studies at Hunter College, the symposium will address topics ranging from the lasting importance of Plath’s work, to forthcoming books by and about her, to the role her work has played in shaping modern feminism.
As eminent a writer as she is, her impact exceeds the literary world. Following her suicide in 1963, her work, championed by Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan, became a touchstone in the women’s movement because of its unflinching female voice and its willingness to challenge patriarchal norms. Ms. Morgan and Ms. Steinem will be the keynoters at the conference’s evening session, at which award-winning actress Kathleen Chalfant (Wit, Angels in America) will read from Plath’s poetry.
9:30 – 11:00am
Session One: The Work
An overview of the poetry and prose of Sylvia Plath
Amanda Golden is the author of many scholarly articles about Sylvia Plath and coeditor, with Maeve O’Brien, of The Bloomsbury Handbook to Sylvia Plath. With Karen V. Kukil, she is also the coeditor of The Poems of Sylvia Plath, a new updated edition forthcoming from Faber & Faber.
Vijay Seshadri is the author of five poetry collections including The Long Meadow; 3 Sections; and, most recently, That Was Now, This Is Then. He is the recipient of the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
Peter K. Steinberg is the author of Sylvia Plath, a biography in the Great Writers Series. He is also coeditor of the two-volume Letters of Sylvia Plath and editor of The Prose of Sylvia Plath, forthcoming from Faber & Faber.
11:30am – 1:00pm
Session Two: Influences
Who and what impacted Sylvia Plath’s work?
Susan Cheever is a former columnist for Newsday, where she contributed to the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the crash of TWA Flight 800. She has published five novels as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including: Drinking in America: Our Secret History; E.E. Cummings: A Life; andHome Before Dark, a memoir about her father, John Cheever. She was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Boston Globe Winship Medal.
Heather Clark is the author of The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, for which she received a Pulitzer Prize nomination. She is the recipient of The Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism.
Richard Kaye is a Professor of English at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the editor of D.H. Lawrence Review and author of The Flirt’s Tragedy: Desire Without End in Victorian and Edwardian Fiction.
2:30 – 4:30pm
Session Three: Poets on Plath
Poets respond to the work of Sylvia Plath
Mark Doty is the author of numerous poetry collections and memoirs, including My Alexandria and Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. He is the recipient of the Whiting Award, the Lambda Literary Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the T.S. Eliot Prize, and the National Book Award for Poetry.
Donna Masini is the author of poetry collections including 4:30 Movie, Turning to Fiction, and That Kind of Danger, winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and the novel About Yvonne. She teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Hunter College.
Honor Moore is the author of three poetry collections including Red Shoes and Darling. Her memoir, The Bishop’s Daughter, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the editor of Poems from the Women’s Movement and, with Alix Kates Shulman, coeditor of Women’s Liberation: Feminist Writings That Inspired a Revolution & Still Can.
Eva Salzman is the author of The English Earthquake; Bargain with the Watchman; and Double Crossing: New and Selected Poems, all of which were Poetry Book Society Recommendations. She is also coeditor of the anthology Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English.
A reading of Sylvia Plath poems by Kathleen Chalfant
A Conversation with Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem
Kathleen Chalfant is an award-winning actress who has appeared on television (The Affair), film (Bob Roberts, Old), and stage where her numerous credits include Angels in America (Tony Award nomination); Racing Demon; The Vagina Monologues; The Year of Magical Thinking; Wit (Obie, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award); and one woman-shows about Rose Kennedy and Peter Pan.
Robin Morgan has published over 20 books, including seven volumes of prize-winning poetry, and is a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Award recipient. Her latest book of poems, Dark Matter, will be followed by her new collection, Harvesting Darkness, later this year. A leading activist in global feminism and former Ms. magazine Editor-in-Chief, her Sisterhood anthologies are regarded as feminist literary cornerstones.
Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, political activist, and iconic feminist organizer. She has spent decades traveling in this and other countries as an organizer and lecturer and is a frequent media spokeswoman on issues of equality. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of sex and race caste systems; gender roles and child abuse as roots of violence; non-violent conflict resolution; the cultures of indigenous peoples; and organizing across boundaries for peace and justice.
Paul Alexander, Symposium Director, is the editor of Ariel Ascending: Writings About Sylvia Plath. He is also the author of Rough Magic, a biography about Plath, and Edge, a one-woman play about her. He has written about Plath for The Nation, The Boston Globe, Literary Hub, and, most often, The Washington Post.
Julie Rosenberg, Student Committee Chair, is a junior at Hunter College who is majoring in English and plans to pursue a graduate degree in adolescent education.