Katherine Mansfield: The way to Fontainebleau
Kominars, Sheppard Benet
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The aim of this dissertation is to examine Katherine Mansfield's achievement from a new perspective, the final phase of her life, the period of Fontainebleau. This period provides us with a framework for understanding her short stories because it serves to integrate her ideas and her fiction. By bringing her life and work much closer together than critics had previously done, I have shown that her decision to go to Fontainebleau is a natural evolution of her thought and not an abdication of reason. My interpretation has been substantiated with references to Katherine Mansfield's writing, with oral and written reports of people who knew her at the Prieure in Fontainebleau, and with all available scholarship. Since it was not possible to work with the original manuscripts and journals, the central focus of the dissertation is on the short stories, which Katherine Mansfield had the opportunity to edit before publication. Chapters One and Two deal with the major forces which influenced the author's life and the period of time she actually spent at the Prieure. The next four chapters trace her ideas prior to her decision to go to Fontainebleau. The material in the stories, journals, and letters is organized around four crucial experiences in Katherine Mansfield's life: expatriation, love fore John Middleton Murry, the death of her brother and her loss of health, the constant search for understanding. Chapter Three, "To Be a Stranger," considers the experience of isolation as it first appears in her early work, In a German Pension, and as it is treated in her later stories. In Chapter Four, "To Love and Marry," Katherine Mansfield's attitude toward love is studied in relationship to her life with John Middleton Murry. Chapter Five, "To Live and Be Well," traces the significance of the author's understanding of herself as the loss of her health results in a revaluation of her effort to live exclusively as a writer. Chapter Six, "'To Find the Snail Under the Leaf,'" explores the major motif of "the search" in the author's life and fiction. The final chapter of this book, "'To Laugh with the Heroes,'" measures the significance of Fontainebleau in terms of Katherine Mansfield's ideas about her future as an artist. This dissertation corrects two prevalent misapprehensions about Katherine Mansfield: the first, that the desperate state of her health reduced her grasp on reality to a condition bordering on absolute despair, and the second, that her significance as a writer should be based primarily upon her technical innovations. "The Way to Fontainebleau" demonstrates that a proper assessment of Katherine Mansfield's literary achievement cannot be made without understanding the significance of the period of Fontainebleau.
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RightsCopyright by Sheppard Benet Kominars 1966.