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'Ovid, Plath, Baskin, Hughes'

Ranger, Holly

'Ovid, Plath, Baskin, Hughes' Thumbnail


Holly Ranger


Many critical treatments of the poetic interaction of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes have overlooked Hughes's 1997 translation of 24 episodes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Tales from Ovid. This paper argues that the connections between Hughes, Plath, and Ovid that erupt in Hughes’s final two collections of poetry are similarly complex and longstanding. I begin by considering Hughes’s 1988 essay ‘Sylvia Plath: The Evolution of “Sheep in Fog”’, in which he becomes the first critic of Plath’s work to note her engagement with Ovidian figures. Building on Hughes’s argument that the mythic figures of Phaeton and Icarus provide the interpretative key for understanding Plath’s Ariel poems, I provide further examples of Ovidian figures in Plath’s poetry. To focalise the allusive nexus between Ovid, Plath, and Hughes, I compare Plath’s poem ‘Sculptor’ (1958) – dedicated to Leonard Baskin and in which Baskin is cast as Ovid’s Pygmalion – to the tale of Pygmalion as translated by Hughes in Tales from Ovid. I present some further evidence for Plath’s presence (or conspicuous absence) in Tales from Ovid, before discussing some implications of Hughes’s (re)arrangement of the translations. Finally, I suggest that while Birthday Letters represents an explicit engagement with Plath, Tales from Ovid presents an implicit dialogue with Plath’s work and her own Ovidian allusion.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 9, 2018
Online Publication Date Jan 17, 2019
Publication Date Jan 17, 2019
Deposit Date Dec 10, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 18, 2019
Journal Ted Hughes Society Journal
Print ISSN 2051-7270
Publisher Ted Hughes Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 2
Pages 7-24
Public URL
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