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Sylvia Plath's bikini shot: it's time to stop sexualising a serious author to sell books | Cathleen Allyn Conway

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The UK cover of a new collection of letters is only the latest to show the acclaimed poet as blond, beaming and in a skimpy outfit. But presenting female writers as mere sex symbols diminishes their literary achievements

On the US cover of Sylvia Plath’s Collected Letters, a volume out this week that contains mostly unpublished letters by the poet between the ages of eight and 24, is a picture of her taken in December 1955. She’s walking outside somewhere in Cambridge, bundled up in a coat, and has a thoughtful smile. The UK edition went for a very different depiction of Plath, however: a full-colour photo of her on a beach in a bikini, blond and beaming – a visual antithesis to the ambitious, intellectual poet.

Related: Sylvia Plath, a voice that can’t be silenced | Sarah Churchwell

Related: Plath's letters probably won't harm Hughes's reputation | Rafia Zakaria

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