Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)

Rachel Malik
Gosling Room
Thurs 27 June & Friday 28 June


‘[The geraniums] burn with arrogance and pride. And I am the little Colonial walking in the London garden patch—allowed to look, perhaps, but not to linger. If I lie on the grass they positively shout at me: “Look at her, lying on our grass, pretending she lives here, pretending this is her garden, and that tall back of the house, with the windows open and the coloured curtains lifting, is her house. She is a stranger—an alien. She is nothing but a little girl sitting on the Tinakori hills and dreaming: ‘I went to London and married an Englishman, and we lived in a tall grave house with red geraniums and white daisies in the garden at the back.’ Im-pudence!’ (Katherine Mansfield, Journal, 1919)

This two-day course will focus on some of Mansfield’s best known and most brilliant short stories, including ‘At The Bay’, ‘Bliss’ and ‘The Garden Party’, as well as some of her lesser known ones such as ‘Je Ne Parle Pas Francais’ and ‘An Indiscreet Journey’. We will examine her style and form through a number of contexts, including her position as an ‘outsider’ writer (a ‘colonial’ from New Zealand who settles in England) and her relations with various periodicals of the time where her stories, articles and reviews were published e.g. The New Age, Rhythm and The Athenaeum. We will also touch on Mansfield’s unstable literary reputation.The course is a mixture of lectures, close analysis of the stories, broader discussion and workshop.

Day 1: Thursday 27 June
10.30am - 3.30pm

Members:  £55  Non-members: £65 
Concessions: £10 (call the office 020 8340 3343)

Morning. Lecture and discussion. After a brief introduction to Mansfield’s life and changing critical reputation, we’ll go to think about the key features of Mansfield’s stories including her uses of shifting and deliberately limited points of view, heightened states of feeling and perception, poetic language and form.

Afternoon. Workshop and discussion. We’ll explore two of Mansfield’s stories in depth, ‘An Indiscreet Journey’ and ‘At the Bay’, focussing on how moments, characters and events are connected through image and symbol and how she represents multiple perspectives or points of view. We’ll also look at some of her own writing about her writing.

Day 2: Friday 28 June
10.30am - 3.30pm

Members:  £55  Non-members: £65 
Concessions: £10 (call the office 020 8340 3343)

Morning. Lecture and discussion. How far does Mansfield’s position as an outsider, in particular a ‘colonial’ shape her relationship to writing and reading?  How does she use the uncertain relations between old world and new? We’ll look at two important New Zealand stories, ‘The Woman at the Store’, ‘The Doll’s House’ and ‘How Pearl Button was Kidnapped’ as well ‘Je Ne Parle Pas Francais’ set in Paris where the narrator is a sexually and morally ambiguous young French writer.

Afternoon. Workshop and discussion. How might Mansfield’s own literary criticism of key contemporaries, including E. M. Forster, Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf, help us understand her writing aims and her relation to modernist writing. We’ll centre our discussion on two very differently shaped-stories ‘Bliss’ and ‘The Garden Party’ but draw on other stories that we’ve discussed.


Please buy the following edition (available from Amazon, WOB / World of Books or order from bookshops)

Katherine Mansfield, Katherine Mansfield’s Selected Stories, Norton Critical Edition, 2006, edited by Vincent O’Sullivan.

This edition contains all the stories we will be reading but also some of her letters and criticism about her stories, contemporary and historical, which we will be making use of on the course.

Full list of stories to read: The Woman at the Store, How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped, The Little Governess, An Indiscreet Journey, Je Ne Parle Pas Francais, Bliss, The Man Without a Temperament, The Young Girl, Miss Brill, Marriage A La Mode, At the Bay, The Garden Party and The Doll’s House.