Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes: The poetry behind the myth ADED11619

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: Short Courses
  • Credits: 10
  • Level: Level 1 (SCQF level 7)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

In the wealth of material about these two iconic writers of the 20th century, much discussion has been generated by their love story, which culminated in Plath's death in 1963. But they were both great poets in their own right - Hughes's unflinching examinations of the natural world were matched by Plath's extraordinarily visceral imagery. We will analyse and discuss key works by both poets, situating the poetry in the context of key events in their lives, such as their first meeting, their marriage, the birth of their children, and Plath's final months. There will be a particular focus on Plath's Ariel, and Hughes's Birthday Letters. We will also consider Plath's and Hughes's letters, journals, and diary entries, as well as interviews with the two poets, and reviews of their respective publications.


Block 1

2 hours per week for 10 weeks



Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





One essay of 1500 words (75%) plus one set exercise of 500 words (25%).

Essay: A comparative essay making particular reference to style, technique and theme.

Set exercise: A worksheet to be completed at home which would involve a choice between passages from poems that speak to events in the poets lives.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

Give students the opportunity to read and analyse closely Plath's and Hughes's poetry

Offer insights into the poets' lives through their poems, letters, journals and interviews

Compare and contrast the writers' interpretations of key events in their lives

Encourage a critical appreciation of Plath's and Hughes's use of language and imagery

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

■ Identify the key characteristics of Plath's and Hughes's poetry

■ Evaluate the ways in which language and imagery are used in the course texts

■ Demonstrate how their poetry, letters and journals illuminate key periods of their lives

■ Comment in detail on comparisons and contrasts between the content and style of the writers' work

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.