Katherine Mansfield - Learning Literature

Katherine Mansfield
• Kathleen Beauchamp was born on 14th October
• 1903-1906: London, Queen’s College
• 1908: settled in London
• 1911: met John Middleton Murry (marriage in
• 1915: her brother Leslie died in WW1
• 1917: diagnosed as tubercular
• 1923: died at Fontainbleau
The modernist short story:key-features
Limitation and foregrounding of the point of view
Emphasis on presentation of sensation and inner experience
Deletion or transformation of several elements of the traditional plot
Rejection of chronological time ordering
Spatial form
Increasing reliance on metaphor and metonymy in the presentation of the
events of existence
Formal and stylistic economy
Foregrounding of style
The short story shares all these characteristics with the modern novel, but
they ‘look’ different in the short story precisely because it is physically
The emphasis on subjectivity affects the themes of modern fiction:
alienation, isolation, solipsism, the quest for identity
Katherine Mansfield
• A German Pension and Other Stories 1911
• Prelude 1918
• Bliss and Other Stories 1920
• The Garden Party and Other Stories 1922
• The Doves’ Nest and Other Stories 1923
• Something Childish and Other Stories 1924
The question of gender
• “Our satisfaction recognizes the skill with
which the author has handled perfectly the
minimum material”, [so that the story is]
“what I believe would be called feminine” T.S.
Eliot on “Bliss” in After Strange Gods
Phases in Katherine Mansfield’s career
• 1908 – 1917
• 1917 – 1923: publication of her major stories.
Two main events in this phase:
• Her engagement with Chechov
• Her accepting an invitation by Woolf to write a
story for the Hogarth Press
Chekhov’s influence
• “What the writer does is not so much to solve the
question but to put the question. There must be the
question put. That seems to me a very nice dividing
line between the true and the false writer” Letter to
Murry, 27 May 1919
• “Tchechov said over and over again […] that he had no
problem […] the artist takes a long look at Life. He says
softly ‘So this is what Life is, is it?’ and he proceeds to
express that. All the rest he leaves” Letter to Dorothy
Brett, 17 Nov. 1921
• With her friend S.S. Koteliansky Mansfield translated
some of Chekhov’s correspondence
Mansfield - Woolf
• “We have got the same job and it is really very
curious and thrilling that we should both, quite
apart from each other, be after so very nearly the
same thing” Letter to V. Woolf
• “And I was jealous of her writing – the only
writing I have ever been jealous of. This made it
harder to write to her; & I saw in it, perhaps from
jealousy, all the qualities I disliked in her”, Woolf’s
• “I feel a common understanding between us – a
queer sense fo being ‘alike’” Letter to KM
“What form is it? you ask. Ah, Brett, it’s so difficult to
say. As far as I know, it’s more or less my invention […] I
have a perfect passion for the island where I was born.
Well, in the early morning there I always remember
feeling that this little island has dipped back into the
dark blue sea during the night only to rise again at
gleam of day […] I tried to catch that moment – with
something of its sparkle and its flavour. And just as on
those mornings white milky mists rise and uncover
some beauty, then smother it again and then again
disclose it, I tried to lift that mist from my people and
let them be seen and then to hide them again” Letter
to Dorothy Brett, 11 Oct. 1917
• “Then I want to write poetry. I feel always
trembling on the brink of poetry. The almond
tree, the birds, the little wood where you are,
the flowers you do not
[…]see […] But especially I
want to write a kind of long elegy to you …
perhaps not in poetry. Nor perhaps in prose.
Almost certainly in a kind of special prose.”
Journal, 22 January 1916

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