Katherine Mansfield's Fiction

By Patrick D. Morrow | Go to book overview

The Plan of This Book

While Katherine Mansfield has been very lucky to have had several first rate biographers, in my opinion not anywhere near enough exact and in depth literary criticism on her individual stories is available. Therefore, the mission of this volume is to provide many specific interpretations for KM's many stories. Not every story Katherine wrote is considered, but I hope and trust that enough representative examples from all five of her books are explicated so that the reader of this book will come away from it with a greatly increased understanding of what and how much Mansfield accomplished as a writer of short fiction.

Ironically, the first chapter is about a biographical issue that has not received enough discussion. Despite the substantial and very skillful biographical work on Mansfield by Antony Alpers, Saralyn Daly, Jeffrey Meyers, Claire Tomalin, and others, Mansfield's veritable obsession with moving needs more consideration. This is an especially important issue because it relates so much to her career as a creative writer. The second chapter uses three recent literary critics in an attempt to establish some basic ground rules with KM's fiction. Only by applying some critical approaches can we really distinguish Mansfield's depth and complexity as a writer of short fiction. The three critics I use are Mieke Bal, a Dutch feminist critic who writes about narratology; then M.H. Short, who writes about types of indirect discourse in Language and Literature; and finally, Seymour Chatman who writes in Story and Discourse about problems and issues that arise when narration gives way to non-narration in a story.

Then, I consider Mansfield's stories book by book. She is a really uneven writer, so that some of her most accomplished stories come very early, and some of her weakest stories are written very late. This sense of being inconsistent and uneven adds to both the problems and excitement of reading Katherine Mansfield. She wrote three volumes of short stories, and her

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