‘Is’t not a kind of incest?’
Metaphor and relation in the poetry of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
in Incest in contemporary literature
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In his selections for Tales from Ovid (1995) Hughes includes several incest narratives: 'Myrrha', 'Venus and Adonis (and Atalanta)', 'Pygmalion', and 'Tereus'. In arguing that they, in addition to other 'late' Hughes poems, develop dialogic relationships with Plath's earlier texts, the chapter builds upon Lynda K. Bundtzen's observation that Hughes's Birthday Letters (1998) is centrally informed by Ovid's tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Analysing the self reflexiveness of aspects of Ovidian narrative, Philip Hardie has commented upon the 'narcissistic and incestuous relationship between author and his book.' The complexities that Hardie outlines in Ovid's relationship with text are extended in the chaoter to consider the relationships of the two poets, Plath and Hughes, with their own and each other's texts. In the process of pursuing this idea across key poems by Plath and Hughes, the chapter further explores ways in which Ovidian mythology is transformed not only through translation but also through its proper and improper relation with other mythologisations and metaphorisations. These range from the Garden of Eden, and different versions of the Underworld, and return us to Shakespeare.

Editor: Miles Leeson


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