Mrs. Aurelia Plath kept absolutely everything related to her daughter Sylvia. The originals of 696 letters Sylvia Plath wrote and mailed to her mother, plus related letters, are preserved in the Plath mss. II collection at the Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington. In The Letters of Sylvia Plath the text of Sylvia’s letters is reproduced, but not the dozens of notes and comments Mrs. Plath hand-wrote on the letters she received from Sylvia and, after Sylvia died in 1963, on letters Mrs. Plath received from Sylvia’s husband and friends. Aurelia Plath’s hundreds of longhand and shorthand annotations throughout the Plath archives form a superscript or descant to the primary materials: metadata about her artist daughter’s youth as it unfolded into young adulthood, and in retrospect as Aurelia grieved her dead daughter and suffered collateral damage as Sylvia’s work and biography became sensational. Mrs. Plath wrote some of her notes and comments in Gregg shorthand, and until 2012 no attempt had been made to transcribe them. Additionally, Sylvia Plath’s personal library of approximately 150 books is housed at the Lilly Library. Among these books are six books annotated in Gregg shorthand by her mother. Transcription of the Gregg annotations provides context for Sylvia Plath’s letters and sheds light on her family life and relationships. The Sylvia Plath narrative scholars and fans typically rely on casts Aurelia Plath as an anxious, smothering parent and chief source of Sylvia’s finally lethal despair. Aurelia spent the rest of her life fighting this narrative. The record they left is unique in English literature.
Catherine Rankovic first presented the Aurelia Plath data sets at the Sylvia Plath Conference in Belfast in November 2017. Rankovic has a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University, an M.A. in English literature from Syracuse University, and an M.F.A. in poetry from Washington University, where she taught as a fellow and adjunct for 21 years. A professional writer and editor, she still uses the Gregg shorthand learned in high school to supplement voice recording technologies. Rankovic first read Plath’s novel The Bell Jar as a teen and has since accumulated a vast Plath library and since 2012 many weeks in archives.
Thanks to Julia Gordon-Bramer, Peter K. Steinberg, Karen Kukil, the Lilly’s librarians, and to Dr. Anthony DiRenzo of Ithaca College and Dr. Vincent Sherry of Washington University, sponsors and friends. Heather James of Marquette University Libraries is the first to grant Aurelia Plath-related scholarship a digital home.

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Submissions from 2019

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Aurelia S. Plath Shorthand Transcription Table from Correspondence in the Lilly Library_Key, Catherine Rankovic

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Aurelia S. Plath Shorthand Transcription Table from Correspondence in the Lilly Library Plath Archive Plath mss.II, Catherine Rankovic

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Aurelia S. Plath’s Shorthand Annotations in Sylvia Plath’s Personal Library at the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Catherine Rankovic

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Aurelia S. Plath’s Shorthand Annotations in Sylvia Plath’s Personal Library at the Lilly Library, Indiana University_Key, Catherine Rankovic