The focus of Birthday Letters (or at least the poems selected for study) is on the following personalities, events and situations:
Personalities: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and, to a lesser extent, Otto Plath
Situations: The marriage between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath and its subsequent breakdown.
Events: Seeing a photograph, eating a peach, destroying an heirloom sideboard, a trip to Paris, a wild ride on a runaway horse, Plath’s eventual suicide.
There have been other literary marriages and relationships that have been personality driven and tumultuous. Exploring some texts that portray conflicting perspectives about these relationships could be an interesting approach to this module.
Personalities: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, writers, expatriots and icons of the roaring twenties.
Situations: Their whirlwind courtship, acrimonious marriage, F. Scott’s alcoholism, their literary careers, Zelda’s obsession with ballet, her struggle with mental illness.
Events: Zelda being admitted to a sanitorium and diagnosed with schizophrenia, F. Scott’s affair with Sheilah Graham, his death in Hollywood, Zelda’s death in a fire.
Nancy Milford’s fascinating biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. Well researched and, although sympathetic towards its subject, inclusive of other perspectives.
The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Allegedly Fitzgerald stole excerpts from his wife’s diaries and included them, verbatim, in this and other novels. When Zelda Fitzgerald drew on their relationship for her writing, F. Scott became enraged.
A visual biography of the couple, which was created drawing on their individual albums and scrapbooks.
The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald, includes her novel Save Me the Waltz as well as semi-autobiographical short stories and magazine articles.
Given the theme of conflicting perspectives, these texts could also work for The Justice Game, Julius Caesar, Snow Falling on Cedars or the other core texts. I think they could also work for History and Memory, particularly The Woman Warrior or The Queen.