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Title: One or many : Bergsonian readings of Katherine Mansfield's modernism
Authors: Nakano, Eiko
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This is the first intensive study of Henri Bergson's influence on Katherine Mansfield's fiction. As I shall explore more fully in Chapter 1, it has frequently been mentioned that Bergson was a great influence on modernist writers and artists, and even on the public at that time. Although it has been at least acknowledged that Mansfield was also inspired by Bergson's philosophy, with the exception of Angela Smith's discussion in Katherine Mansfield: A Literary Life, no detailed account has been offered as to how much and in what ways Bergson's philosophy influenced Mansfield's writing. The lack of studies on this topic might seem surprising, given that Mansfield played some part in introducing the then new philosophy of Bergson to British literary society, with her colleagues, working on the Bergsonian magazine,Rhythm. Nevertheless, it is no wonder that the link between Mansfield and Bergson has not been dealt with in most studies in Mansfield's fiction, considering that her writing does not show what commentators at present commonly know as 'Bergsonian' as obviously as works by some of her contemporaries do. It might seem easier to link Bergson and writers whose famous works are experimental such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf In this thesis, however, I argue that this view of the difference between Joyce and Woolf, who are 'Bergsonian', and Mansfield, who is not, results from basic misunderstandings and stereotypicali deas of Bergson's philosophy and Modernism in present literary criticism. Agreeing with other Mansfield critics, I find it worth noting that her fiction has not been appreciated as much as work of some of her contemporary writers such as Woolf, who was jealous of Mansfield's writing. Just like Bergson, who was extremely popular in his lifetime but soon lost his fame posthumously, Mansfield has failed to attract as much critical attention as might have been expected, although it is significant that her work is popular with common readers, and has never gone out of print. Scholars of her work have studied her as a modernist, woman, and colonial writer, but she is seldom discussed in detail in extensive studies on Modernism; her work has not been a major focus for feminist or postcolonial critics either despite the fact that she is a female New Zealand writer. I argue that the ambiguity, or duality, of Mansfield's writing in terms of nationality, gender, and class which often prevents us from reaching a lucid conclusion on these issues in her stories, is one of the causes of the difficulty of approaching Mansfield's apparently simple writing. Although her well planned ambiguity, like Bergson's, might cause her ideas to be wrongly interpreted as inconsistent at times, I see it as her crucial link with Bergson, or as a strong piece of evidence of her modernity. The aim of this thesis is to reassess Mansfield from multiple perspectives by closely examining her connections with Bergson.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Arts and Humanities
Literature and Languages

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