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Special Issue Short Essays

Vol. 5 No. 2 (2024): Narrative, Environment, Social Justice

Localizing the Global in Sylvia Plath's "Fever 103°"

May 16, 2023


The essay presents a close reading of Sylvia Plath's poem "Fever 103°" and argues that Plath's construction of her speaker's vulnerable self facilitates a breakdown of the boundaries between the embodied self and its socio-cultural environment. The argument is built on recent scholarship on Plath's work that views it in the context of the global political movements of her time. By examining the ways in which Plath's use of Cold War discourses shapes her construction of vulnerability, the essay shows how this construction produces the embodied self as deeply entangled with global political movements manifesting in and through the embodied self. By evoking and concurrently undermining the "poetics of hygiene," the poem suggests that any attempt to ascertain a state of utmost purity, of clearly delineated bodily and cultural boundaries, can only end in annihilation. It is in this sense that Plath's representation of her speaker's vulnerable self allows her to develop an astute perspective on the interconnectedness of the private, the national, and the global socio-political environment. In this way, the poet's construction of a vulnerable self represents an understanding of a globally interconnected world that poses localized dangers of


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