Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. Heather Love

Second Advisor

Dr. Shane Semmler

Third Advisor

Dr. Prentiss Clark


Sylvia Plath, Entertainment Education, Identification, Mental Health, Gender


Sylvia Plath’s semiautobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, has continued to engage audiences since its initial publication in 1963. Combining the disciplines of communication studies and literary studies, I argue that this popularity is in part due to readers’ identification with the novel’s protagonist, Esther. The Bell Jar serves as a piece of entertainment education—media that relays prosocial messages to consumers—and encourages readers to lose their sense of self in exchange for Esther’s identity. By emphasizing the novel’s prosocial messages, I suggest that Plath utilizes readers’ vicarious involvement in the narrative to provide education about mental health and gender roles. My close reading of the text and application of communication theory ultimately serve to bridge two disciplines and reveal the space they share; reflecting my journey navigating interest in two departments, this thesis highlights the benefits of interdisciplinary work in which literature serves as a laboratory for applying evidencebased theory.



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