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Katherine M ansfield (2). LIT 3023 Modernism. Overview. KM’s achievements KM as modernist What is distinctive about KM’s work? Some thoughts on ‘Prelude ’, ‘ The Daughters of the Late Colonel ’ and ‘Her First Ball’. Recap from last week.

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katherine m ansfield 2

Katherine Mansfield (2)

LIT 3023 Modernism

  • KM’s achievements
  • KM as modernist
  • What is distinctive about KM’s work?
  • Some thoughts on ‘Prelude’, ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’ and ‘Her First Ball’
recap from last week
Recap from last week
  • Mansfield’s relationship to other modernist writers
  • Central focus on relationships
  • Limited in scope and scene
  • Emphasis on the commonplace
  • Always dealing with internal world of characters
  • Plot, in traditional sense, is replaced by sense of life observed through prism of personality and identity.
mansfield on mansfield
Mansfield on Mansfield
  • Preoccupied with “the secret self we all have”
  • Journal: “To thine own self be true…True to oneself? Which self? Which of my many – well, really, that’s what it looks like coming to – hundreds of selves?”
  • Ways of looking influenced by art, particularly post-impressionists (cp. Woolf)
  • Moments of disruption (cp. Joyce’s epiphanies)
  • ‘Moments of being’ (Woolf’s phrase)
selves in mansfield
Selves in Mansfield
  • ‘…despite our ‘persistent yet mysterious belief in a self which is continuous and permanent’…what we get instead are ‘moments when I feel I am nothing but the small clerk of some hotel without a proprietor, who has all his work cut out to enter the names and hand the keys to the wilful guests.’
  • Quoted by Nancy Gray, ‘Un-defining the Self in the Stories of Katherine Mansfield’ in Wilson, J. et al (eds.), Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism (London: Continuum, 2011) p. 79
  • Impressionistic technique:
  • ‘…the characters are presented in terms of the intersection of light and shade and seen fleetingly against the light of the stars and the evanescent mystery of the sea.’ (Fullbrook, p.64)
  • Identity is unfixed, impermanent.
  • Kaplan: ‘Mansfield’s aesthetics are grounded in a …recognition of the self as many selves.’
  • Plurality of selves is emphasised – e.g. Beryl in closing scene:

Beryl sat writing this letter at a little table in her room. In a way, of course, it was all perfectly true, but in another way it was all the greatest rubbish and she didn't believe a word of it. No, that wasn't true. She felt all those things, but she didn't really feel them like that.

It was her other self who had written that letter. It not only bored, it rather disgusted her real self.

"Flippant and silly," said her real self. Yet she knew that she'd send it and she'd always write that kind of twaddle to Nan Pym. In fact, it was a very mild example of the kind of letter she generally wrote.

Beryl leaned her elbows on the table and read it through again. The voice of the letter seemed to come up to her from the page. It was faint already, like a voice heard over the telephone, high, gushing, with something bitter in the sound. Oh, she detested it to-day. (p. 117-118)

  • Emphasis on roles and role playing throughout
  • Stanley and Lynda’s relationship largely reduced to roles
  • Children role play adults in comic reversal
  • Quotidian life presented as constant series of adjustments in presentation of self.
the daughters of the late colonel
‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’
  • Typical in medias res opening:
  • The week after was one of the busiest weeks of their lives. Even when they went to bed it was only their bodies that lay down and rested; their minds went on, thinking things out, talking things over, wondering, deciding, trying to remember where…
  • (p.230)
the daughters of the late colonel1
‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’
  • Constantia and Josephina’s sense of self defined by their father
  • Original title: “The Non-Compounders” – reference to students who attended classes but were not officially registered.
  • Sisters so constrained by position in patriarchal society that they are not really full members.
  • Sense of inertia in final exchange between the sisters.
the daughters of the late colonel2
‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’
  • Stylistic innovation
  • Twelve short sections, alternating point-of-view
  • Narrative focalisation changes constantly
  • Symbolism – images of freedom and the broader world predominate (e.g. the sea, the moon)
  • Captive life will possible continue.
  • Like Estragon and Vladimir in Godot
her first ball
‘Her First Ball’
  • Like ‘The Garden-Party’, details a young girl’s first encounter with an adult ritual
  • Free indirect discourse allows presentation of consciousness in fluid way.
  • Rite of passage to adulthood
  • Door – symbolic?
her first ball1
‘Her First Ball’
  • FID:
  • Oh dear, how hard it was to be indifferent like the others!
  • Oh, how marvellous to have a brother!
  • Story uses Laura’s naïveté presented through her consciousness
  • But story is third-person
  • Typical modernist approach – see Woolf.
in general
In general…
  • KM’s stories often feature vulnerable, peripheral people, usually women
  • Modernist alienation and lack of sense of identity perhaps rooted in KM’s life
  • Social pressures and impact on young women
  • Overt and covert sexual relationships