“The Adrenaline of Failure:” Exploring the Zaniness of Sylvia Plath

Graduation Year


Publication Date

Spring 2022


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In describing the tone of Sylvia Plath's body of poetic work, critics have come to participate in a back-and-forth, labeling the work, by turns, "hysterical" and "eloquent." This limited conversation is the result of too-little consideration of the complexities of tone itself and overly simplified views of Plath's work. This essay offers an intervention in that conversation, approaching Plath's life and work from the standpoint of affect theory. As a result, this essay recognizes in Plath's existence and poetry the strong presence of what affect theorist Sianne Ngai calls the zany, an affective/aesthetic category marked by heated overproduction. By noticing the zany in Plath, this essay intends to reveal the zaniness of the critical conversation about Plath.


English Language and Literature

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