Alexander, Paul. Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath. New York: Viking, 1991.
Alvarez, A. The Savage God: A Study of Suicide. New York: Random House, 1972. Probes the connections between Plath’s thematic preoccupation with suicide and the inner traumas that led her to take her own life. Uses the life and work of Plath as a focal point for a broadly based discussion of the theme of self-destruction and annihilation present in the work of many artists.
Axelrod, Steven Gould. Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. Calling his book a “biography of the imagination,” Axelrod makes sophisticated use of psychoanalysis, feminist and other recent critical theory, and biographies of the poet to interpret her life and work, including her major poems, letters, and journals. Includes bibliography.
Bassnett, Susan. Sylvia Plath: An Introduction to the Poetry. 2d ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. This second edition of an important work in Plath scholarship makes use of recent scholarship. Provides intriguing and controversial analysis of Plath’s work, breaking from traditional interpretations.
Brain, Tracy. The Other Sylvia Plath. New York: Longman, 2001. A biographical study of Plath and her writings that argues for a distinction between Plath’s real life and her artistic expression. Brain suggests that readers should consider even Plath’s journals as less than strictly autobiographical.
Bundtzen, Lynda K. Plath’s Incarnations: Woman and the Creative Process. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983. A collection of critical essays exploring various issues in Plath’s poetry and fiction, particularly those related to feminine identity. Contains an exceptionally perceptive analysis of The Bell Jar and Plath’s related, “autobiographical” fiction.
Butscher, Edward. Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness. New York: Seabury Press, 1976. The first major critical biography of Plath; a highly accessible account of the forces that shaped her distinctive poetic and fictive voices.
Butscher, Edward, ed. Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977. A collection of critical essays on the life and work of Plath compiled by her principal biographer. Opens with a biographical essay by the editor, followed by critical essays on Plath’s work by a number of prominent writers and critics, including Joyce Carol Oates, Irving Howe, and Marjorie Perloff. Devotes two chapters directly to the discussion of Plath’s fiction.
Gill, Jo, ed. Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath. Cambridge, England: Cambridge, 2006. A two-prong approach to Plath and her works. One section deals with “Context and Issues” and the other “Works.” The student of Plath will find both sections invaluable.
Hall, Caroline King Barnard. Sylvia Plath. New York: Twayne, 1998. A critical introduction to the life and work of Plath. Hall identifies remaining puzzles that face Plath scholarship, particularly those rearrangements and deletions made by Ted Hughes, her husband.
Hayman, Ronald. The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath. London: Heinemann, 1991.
Helle, Anita, ed. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2007. Eleven original essays that draw on correspondence and manuscript drafts to discuss the life and writing of Sylvia Plath. Includes family photographs and full-page reproductions of her paintings.
Hughes, Ted. Birthday Letters. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998. A collection of poems written by Hughes on the subject of his heavily mythologized relationship with Plath. At times joyous, at others painfully self-revealing, the book offers valuable insights into both the professional and personal relationship shared by these two literary icons.
Malcolm, Janet. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. A provocative inquiry into the controversial life of the American poet Sylvia Plath and of her husband, the English poet Ted Hughes, which also probes the nature of biography and attacks contemporary biographers.
Middlebrook, Diane. Her Husband: Hughes and Plath—a Marriage. New York: Viking, 2003. Middlebrook brings insight and empathy to a probing examination of the literary marriage of the century.
Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. More personal in nature than Butscher’s biography, this book focuses more closely on the pathology of Plath’s struggle with depression. Draws heavily on insights gained from close friends and acquaintances of Plath’s, making it as much a depiction of Plath the person as Plath the writer.
Wagner, Eric. Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of the Birthday Letters. London: Faber and Faber, 2000. A careful examination of the writings that detail the minds and relationship of poetry’s most harrowing couple.