Elaine Showalter at Literary Review:
Although Sylvia Plath is admired by many literary scholars and even adored by some passionate readers, critics have not been unanimous in their assessment of her art. Irving Howe declared in 1972 that she was merely a flash in the feminist pan who would soon be ‘regarded as an interesting minor poet’, lucky to be remembered for a few poems buried in anthologies. That cooling off certainly hasn’t happened. Indeed, some fifty-four years after her suicide at the age of thirty, Plath’s literary reputation has become increasingly secure as the entirety of her poetry, fiction and journals has been published and discussed, and new generations of readers have embraced her. Now Karen V Kukil, the curator of the vast Plath archive at Smith College, where Plath was an undergraduate and later an instructor, and Peter Steinberg, an archivist and editor, have produced, with assistance from Smith students, a gargantuan edition of her letters. The first volume, which covers the years from 1940 to 1956, includes 880 letters and weighs four pounds.
For some remaining critical dissenters, it will be an affront to see Plath getting this hefty canonical treatment, especially since the letters come from her childhood, adolescence and student years, ending just before her twenty-fourth birthday, when she was newly, ecstatically and secretly married to Ted Hughes. This volume is a portrait of the artist as a young woman, a genre with very few examples.