Several Of The Texts On This Module English Literature Essay

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Katherine Mansfield was an author who practised unique experimental uses of form and prose, with a radically different conception of narrative that is apparent even in her earlier writing and continues to the end of her career, cementing her quite rightfully as a very important and influential author.

Through close analysis of Selected Stories, her writing seems comparable with that of her contemporary Modernist authors such as Woolf and Wilde, and most strongly Chekhov. In the words of Elisabeth Schneider, "the influence of Chekhov on Katherine Mansfield has often been remarked. She herself freely expressed admiration and a feeling of kinship with her Russian predecessor" [2] and several of her stories bear somewhat obvious influences from his work, most notably the stories of Chekhovs Sleepyhead and Mansfields The Child Who Was Tired about a servant girl, crazed by exhaustion and lack of sleep, strangles the baby she is looking after with no moral compunctions in her crazed mind and falls happily alseep.

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Katherine Mansfields personal life-which few author's lives rival (…) for chaos. It is as if she were blown into shrapnel reassembled as collections of short stories [3] affected her writing in terms of both tone, style and form-her short stories are lacking in many conventions such as plot or ending, providing instead a fluid exploration of feeling and character, of simple occurrences such as the events of The Garden Party which is certainly a story, but not one traditionally told. Mansfield takes situations that seem they are snapshots from the everyday, writing clean, vivid depictions of life. Mansfield glorified in "[intensifying] the so-called small things," [4] taking small instances, snapshots from life both real and imagined and painting intense, almost impressionistic pictures with her words.

Mansfield grew up in colonial New Zealand, which was too small and --paradoxically-- 'too english' to hold her. 'My Heart keeps flying off to Oxford Circus--Westminster Bridges at the Whistler Hour', she sighed in the privacy of her journal. [5] Born as Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand 1888, she was the third daughter in a socially and commercially successful family. Her father, Harold Beauchamp, was a noteworthy success in insurance, company directorships, and finally the Bank of New Zealand. Both parents were only one generation removed from the English immigrants who still referred to Great Britain as home. This clearly influenced Katherine, who was close to her grandmother, as her diary and letters often expressed a feeling of longing to travel to England, especially London.

Mansfields beginnings as a rebellious youth in New Zealand (where her teachers recalled Kathleen as a "surly sort of girl" and "imaginative to the point of untruth," or "shabby and inky" and inquisitive about their views on free love) eventually molded her into the woman who revolutionis[ed] the English short story [6] . Mansfields youthful rebellion, how she found the idea of waiting for a husband to be revolting [7] and how she sought to fight against the status quo of her times in both action and in her writing. In her own words: Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth. [8] Mansfield engaged in both heterosexual, lesbian and interracial flings throughout her life, as uninterested in pursuing social norms as she was in pursuing authorial ones. She found in university, like many of her peers "the beginning of intellectual freedom through an admiration of Oscar Wilde and the English 'decadents.'" [9] Recalling her enthusiasm for Wilde in earlier journal entries, Mansfield later wrote that she was now "growing capable of seeing a wider vision-a little Oscar, a little Symons, a little Dolf Wyllarde-Ibsen, Tolstoi, Elizabeth Robins, Shaw, D'Annunzio, Meredith." [10] She also noted titles from Charles Dickens and G. K. Chesterton as Books selected for study [11] .

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Mansfield did not write in a void, she found inspiration from across all quarters, but her rather radical methods of storytelling was unique and won her the admiration of the growing avant-garde movement of the second and third decades of the twentieth century. Her experimental style was met with varied criticism and enthusiasm, drawing influences from Chekhov but retaining an incredibly original flair for imagery and emotion, unique insight and her way with words that could be at once caustic and tender. Many of her stories, however, are concerned with rebellion, a distaste for the colonial lifestyle and conservative attitudes-for instance, her story How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped does not paint the kidnapper in an antagonistic light-the two women take Pearl button to a place that is free from colonial society, Haven't you got any Houses of Boxes? she said. Don't you all live in a row? Don't the men go to offices? Aren't there any nasty things? [12] and the policemen that come to rescue her are a crowd of little blue men to carry back to the Houses of Boxes; where the women are described as big, sensual and soft. Mansfields works are often scathing of men and their establishments, and whilst not a new concept, was an interesting one because Mansfield did not seem to write to further any feminist cause, but simply for herself.

To look at Mansfield from a point of view that stems from her heritage, looking at her past as an influence on her writing and her reasons for her rebellious style, one can see how "she moved not only closer to home, but as towards a different conception of narrative. In the form she now devised, with its' deft switches in time levels, the merging of mood and image in ways more usually found in poetry, the discarding of anything like a conventional plot, she attempts something much further from what was usually meant by the short story." [13] 

Mansfields relationship with Woolfe and her own personal life, both affected her writing-sharing an anti-patriarchal Modernist approach, both authors looked at eachothers writing with both a critical and an admiring eye-"Virginia and Katherine made the fragility of feeling, of happiness and life itself into their subject; both felt a degree of antagonism for the male world of action (and for a male society); both turned to their childhood and their dead to nourish their imaginations", and to look at Mansfields writing, especially in Selected Stories, one can see how many of her childhood influences and distaste for the patriarchal and colonial lifestyle fuelled her writing, to look again at How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped you can see how Mansfield admired those not confined by Houses of Boxes, how she romanticized the two women who both exchanged 'kisses; with Pearl and how the child gave a shriek of terror when she saw the policemen coming up the beach to take her back to her home.

Virginia Woolf-who both disapproved of and envied Mansfield's wider and more amorphous sexual and social experience was both her principal rival and close friend, with whom she had a shifting, difficult, intense, but highly communicative relationship-always respected and tried to learn from Mansfield's writing, writing in her diary when she heard of Mansfields death, Woolf penned: "I was jealous of her writing-the only writing I have ever been jealous of." [14] Mansfields gathered writing in Selected Stories is a mixture of structured tales such as Prelude, snapshots of story and feeling as in Millie and How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped.

Mansfields radicalism, her innovations and Modernist influences, and how she married certain styles together in her writing to create a unique and experimental style are a large part of why her peers, particularly Woolf, were so fond of her writing. Mansfield then is far from being the 'safe writer the lyrical surfaces of her most famous stories proclaim her to be. She radically questioned all the most compelling myths of personal and public life-the romance of marriage, family happiness, child purity, the grandeur of the artists task, the coherence and integrity (in both senses) of the individual self, the immutable nature of sexual identity. [15] As a woman who took part in sexual encounters with members of different gender and race, Mansfields writing is often slightly sexually subversive, especially considering stories such as Bliss. The relationship between Bertha and Pearl, a "find" of Bertha's called Pearl Fulton. What Miss Fulton did, Bertha didn't know. They had met at the club and Bertha had fallen in love with her, as she always did fall in love with beautiful women who had something strange about them is definitely laced with interest, Bertha more interested in Pearl than her husband who is a bore, but who is having sex with her behind Berthas back. Mansfield tends to romanticize the relationships and friendships between women in her writing (such as Keiza and Lottie in Prelude), but outright tends to eschew romance itself, preferring to write about brief feelings and interests (especially prevalent in Millie where she feels A strange and dreadful feeling gripped Millie Evans' busom--some seed that had never flourished there, unfolded and struck deep roots and burst into painful leaf...the pain in her busom half-suffocated her") and disappointments in others, as well as despairing of male characters, often ridiculing them or writing them as in some way inadequate.

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Mansfield writes her tales without the common components of short stories, such as plot or tying together elements into a firm ending. Mansfields writing instead focuses on happenstance and the humanity of characters without any web of associations, conventions, or history [16] -and how in doing this, Mansfields experimentation has boldly and bravely changed the notion of how a short story is crafted.