Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Dumanis, MIchael

Subject Headings

Plath, Sylvia -- Criticism and interpretation, American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism, Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century, Sylvia Plath, poetry, communication in, narrative persona, trauma, Sylvia Plath poetry, Ariel. getting there, the dark is melting


This thesis examines the poetry of Sylvia Plath to identify a new perspective that looks at the function of narrative voice in her poetry. This perspective identifies the ways Plath's narrator is given a distinct voice, separate from that of the poet herself. The narrative voice interacts with a listener, the audience, to express a traumatic experience and explores how Plath's narrators share their horrific internal worlds with the audience to make a direct connection to the audience. In past scholarship, Plath is figured as a confessional poet, and the speaker in her poems are treated as the personal confessions and experiences of Plath herself. By examining the strengths and weaknesses of how Plath's work has often been represented by previous scholars, including Jon Rosenblatt, Margaret Dickie and others, this thesis offers alternative methods of considering Plath's poetry. Taking into close consideration Robert Phillips' definition of confessional poetry, this work also identifies the ways in which Plath's work varies from this confessional genre in important and significant ways. To explore how traumatic experiences are presented, this paper takes into consideration Cathy Caruth's theories of trauma. Close readings of a selection of poems from Plath's transitional and later works are offered to demonstrate how the speakers of the poems utilize narrative voice and present traumatic experiences as well as connect to the audience. Taking these elements into consideration provides a way of understanding Plath's poetry in a way that goes beyond viewing them as personal confessions or expressions of psychological disturbances, and seeks to establish a new understanding of Plath's work that expands from mere confession to communication