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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2009

E 324 • Literary Marriages from Hell

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34285 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
PAR 206
Berry, B

Course Description

Restricted to non-English majors.
Will not count toward a major in English.

Tom & Viv; Sylvia & Ted; & Lady Caroline Blackwood & Lucien Freud & Robert Lowell
The personal lives of authors nearly always find their ways into their works and none more so than in the case of these three pairs of star-crossed marriages: the Eliots, the Hughes, and Lady Caroline Blackwood's three marriages. Out of the ashes of their tortured marriages and private agonies rose some literary masterpieces and many enduring works. We will use the tools of biography, memoir, letters, and above all, the words of the principals, both in their creative and private lives, to decipher and explicate some of the major texts of the twentieth century. With the Eliots we will focus on that most personal of "impersonal" poems, The Waste Land. We will also view the film Tom and Viv. In the case of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes we will read Plath's poetry and selections from her journals and her novel, The Bell Jar. We will read Hughes's last collection of poetry, Birthday Letters, a belated response to the tragic end of their marriage and of Plath's life. And we will see the recent film Sylvia, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig portraying Plath and Hughes. In the case of Lady Caroline Blackwood, the writer was married to three (count 'em, three) famous artists: a painter, a composer, and a poet. So we'll see how all that worked out. In this course the literature, art, and behind-the-scenes material are amazingly haunting and unforgettable documents that testify to the professional and private angst in the participants' bid to join the literary pantheon.

Grading Policy

Quizzes and Class Participation 20%
Mid-Term Exam 25%
Essay 25%
Final Exam 30%


Tenative List:
T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems
Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters
Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems; The Bell Jar; The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Caroline Blackwood, [novel to be announced]
[Numerous handouts, packet materials, and visual components will be provided in class]


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