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Sylvia Plath's FictionA Critical Study$
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Luke Ferretter

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780748625093

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748625093.001.0001

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Gender and Society in The Bell Jar

Gender and Society in The Bell Jar

(p.116) Chapter 4: Gender and Society in The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath's Fiction

Luke Ferretter

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter places The Bell Jar in the cultural context of the discourses on gender within which Plath lived and wrote. Contemporary discourses on sex, medicine, childbirth, psychiatry, beauty, marriage and femininity are all discussed in detail. Contemporary marriage manuals, women's self-help books, women's magazines and other texts on gender are examined, particularly those that Plath herself encountered. Feminist critiques of the institutions of obstetrics and gynaecology and of psychiatry, particularly of the practice of ECT, are drawn on in explaining Plath's portrayal of these institutions in the novel. The chapter argues that The Bell Jar reflects the complex and conflicting contemporary discourses on gender within which Plath lived and wrote.

Keywords:   The Bell Jar, gender discourse, sex, obstetrics-gynaecology, psychiatry, ECT, beauty, marriage, femininity, feminist

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