Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and media culture

Presley, N (2020) Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and media culture. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.


This thesis explores the context of media culture in mid-twentieth-century America alongside pertinent examples in the poetry and prose of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Through an exploration of the development of print advertising, radio and television, it aims to elucidate how these articles intersect with Sexton and Plath's poetry and prose. Media culture encompasses both media products and media technologies, and products such as radio and television programmes, print and televisual advertisements, comic strips, and brand characters are discussed alongside media objects like the television and radio set. I trace the appearance of these artefacts in the literature, demonstrating that, taken together, these cultural and literary texts form a nuanced and multifaceted dialogue with the contemporaneous social, political and intellectual situation in America. This represents a new intervention in Plath and Sexton studies, and one which builds upon recent developments in literary criticism. In this work, I take a chronological approach to media in the twentieth century, exploring debates around media audiences, media consumption, and new technologies, and use media cultural theory to offer new readings of the poets' work. A particular focus on gender construction, enculturation and audience across both literature and media reveals the ways in which both forms subvert and challenge societal and gendered conventions, and demonstrates that the literary texts form an intertextual, or transmedial, dialogue with cultural artefacts. As a final investigation, I examine the digital afterlives of Sexton and Plath in relation to transmedia storytelling, and social media culture.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: media culture, print advertising, television, radio, literary criticism, 20th century fiction, 20th century poetry, American literature, gender construction, audience, transmedia storytelling, social media, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2021 14:59
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2021 14:59
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