'Hitler's Familiar Spirits'

Negative Dialectics in Sylvia Plath's 'Daddy' and Ted Hughes's 'Hawk Roosting'

in Critical Survey
Paul BentleyUniversity of St Mark & St John pbentley@marjon.ac.uk

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Within the critical debate surrounding Sylvia Plath's poetry, the chief bone of contention seems to be whether or not Plath's use of Holocaust imagery is in any sense justifiable. Seamus Heaney's summary remarks on 'Daddy' are typical of the line usually taken against Plath – Heaney writes: 'A poem like 'Daddy', however brilliant a tour de force it can be acknowledged to be, and however its violence and vindictiveness can be understood or excused in light of the poet's parental and marital relations, remains, nevertheless, so entangled in biographical circumstances and rampages so permissively in the history of other people's sorrows that it simply overdraws its rights to our sympathy.'

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