Academic journal article Woolf Studies Annual

Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays

Academic journal article Woolf Studies Annual

Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays

Article excerpt

Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays. Eds. Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) xiv +241 pp.

Circulating Genius: John Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield and D. H. Lawrence. Sydney Janet Kaplan (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2010) 228 pp.

A Literary Modernist: Katherine Mansfield and the Art of the Short Story. Gerri Kimber. Foreword by Vincent O'Sullivan (Birkbeck, England: Kakapo Books, 2008) 86 pp.

Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism. Eds. Janet Wilson, Gerri Kimber and Susan Reid (London and New York: Continuum, 2011) xii + 216 pp.

Katherine Mansfield and the Modernist Marketplace. Jenny McDonnell (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) viii + 220 pp.

Katherine Mansfield: The Storyteller. Kathleen Jones (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2010) viii + 524 pp.

Katherine Mansfield: The View from France. Gerri Kimber (Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 2008) 290 pp.

Modernist Short Fiction by Women: The Liminal in Katherine Mansfield, Dorothy Richardson, May Sinclair and Virginia Woolf. Claire Drewery (Farnham UK and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2011) vii + 150 pp.

In an introduction to a collection of Katherine Mansfield's stories published in the 1950s, Elizabeth Bowen lamented the way in which Mansfield's untimely death in 1923 had effectively cheated Mansfield of the recognition due her achievements: "Where is she now, our missing contemporary?" Bowen asked (vi). It is a question that has long puzzled Mansfield scholars: despite a steady stream of studies that established Mansfield as a pioneering modernist, as a woman writer deeply engaged with defining the relationship between female artistry, subjectivity, and embodiment, and as an important and influential fellow writer to such friends as Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence, Mansfield has remained oddly marginalized. She has been overlooked in part because her genre of choice has been marginalized within literary studies more generally; she also moved in the more marginal circles of periodicals and little magazines, which are only now garnering sustained critical attention. Yet her reputation has also suffered from other impediments, most notably the management of her posthumous career by her husband and literary executor, John Middleton Murry: while the latter undoubtedly kept her name in front of the public, he also created a sentimentalized view of Mansfield that not only considerably sanitized her literary persona but that deeply alienated friends and acquaintances and that indelibly marked earlier literary assessments. As Frank O'Connor observed in his study of the short story, "It may be that for me and people of my own generation her work has been obscured by her legend" (128). Or, as Woolf more succinctly put it, "there was Murry squirming and oozing a sort of thick motor oil in the background" (L4 366).

Yet as the wealth of new scholarship on Mansfield demonstrates, we are witnessing a resurgence of interest in modernism's missing contemporary. A number of new developments have contributed to this resurgence. First, the completion of the five-volume Collected Letters in 2008 and the Complete Edition of her notebooks in 1997 has provided impetus for a revaluation of Mansfield's life and work. Second, an important conference held at Birkbeck College, University of London in September 2008 to commemorate Mansfield's arrival in London in 1908 to establish herself as a professional writer witnessed the founding of the international Katherine Mansfield Society, the establishment of the peer-reviewed journal Katherine Mansfield Studies, and plans for future conferences. Mansfield scholarship has also benefited from new critical trends that have helped to foreground her unique position within British and European modernism. New work on modernism's little magazines, for example, has renewed interest in Mansfield's important role as both contributor to and editor of such periodicals as the The New Age, Rhythm, and The Blue Review. …

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