Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
American Isis

American Isis

The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath

Carl Rollyson

St. Martin's Press




On the fiftieth anniversary of her death, a startling new vision of Plath—the first to draw from the recently-opened Ted Hughes archive

The life and work of Sylvia Plath has taken on the proportions of myth. Educated at Smith, she had an epically conflict-filled relationship with her mother, Aurelia. She then married the poet Ted Hughes and plunged into the sturm and drang of married life in the full glare of the world of English and American letters. Her poems were fought over, rejected, accepted and, ultimately, embraced by readers everywhere. Dead at thirty, she committed suicide by putting her head in an oven while her children slept.

Her poetry collection titled Ariel became a modern classic. Her novel The Bell Jar has a fixed place on student reading lists. American Isis will be the first Plath bio benefitting from the new Ted Hughes archive at the British Library which includes forty one letters between Plath and Hughes as well as a host of unpublished papers. The Sylvia Plath Carl Rollyson brings to us in American Isis is no shrinking Violet overshadowed by Ted Hughes, she is a modern day Isis, a powerful force that embraced high and low culture to establish herself in the literary firmament.



27 October 1932: Sylvia Plath born in Boston while her family lives in Winthrop, Massachusetts; 1934: Otto Plath publishes Bumblebees and Their Ways, a landmark...


Praise for American Isis

“Garbo, Garland, Monroe, Plath, thrilling divas one and all. Carl Rollyson's American Isis is a tour de force that reinvents Sylvia Plath for the 21st century. I was sorry to turn the final page.” —Marion Meade, author of Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney

“Carl Rollyson's impeccably researched, compulsively readable life of Sylvia Plath is likely to remain for years to come the definitive biography of this complex, fascinating woman. I could not put the book down.” —Donald Spoto, author of High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly and The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams

“An illuminating work on Plath by an accomplished biographer. While not underestimating Plath's troubled nature, Rollyson recognizes her as the agent of her own fame: a skilled mythmaker who worked hard to become not only a great poet but also an intellectual celebrity. Like Marilyn Monroe, who influenced her, she both shaped and reflected her times, becoming a symbol for our age.” —Lois Banner, Professor of History and Gender Studies, University of Southern California. Author of Marilyn Monroe: The Passion and the Paradox

In the Press

Carl Rollyson offers a refreshingly judicious and even-handed new biography of the poet. - The Washington Post

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Carl Rollyson

CARL ROLLYSON is professor of journalism at Baruch College, The City University of New York and the author of twelve biographies including Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress and, with his wife, Lisa Paddock, Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon. He reviews biographies regularly for The Wall Street Journal, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Washington Post, The New Criterion, and other papers. He writes a column every two weeks for He lives in Cape May Court House, New Jersey.

Carl Rollyson

Celene McDermott

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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