KATHERINE MANSFIELD: THE VIEW FROM FRANCE
Kimber, Geraldine Maria
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The aim of this thesis is to assess the reason why Katherine Mansfield’s reputation in France has always been greater than in England. The thesis examines the ways in which the French reception of Mansfield has idealised her persona to the extent of crafting a hagiography. I ask: what were the motives behind the French critics’ desire to put Mansfield on a pedestal? How did the three years she spent on French soil influence her writing? How do the translations of her work collude in the myth surrounding her personality? Although several other scholars have discussed the Katherine Mansfield myth in France, this thesis is the first sustained attempt to establish interconnections between her own French influences (literary and otherwise), and the mythmaking of the French critics and translators. I have divided my thesis into six chapters. The first places Mansfield in the general literary context of her era, exploring French literary tendencies at the time and juxtaposing them with the main literary trends in England. The second chapter focuses on the writer’s trips to France, demonstrating the influence of the French experience on her life and works. The third chapter highlights specific French literary influences and how these manifest themselves in her narrative art. In the fourth, I explain the workings of the writer’s narrative art, so that when in the next chapter I study the translations via close textual analysis, it will become clear whether the beliefs and principles expressed in the original texts have been diluted during the translation process. The last chapter prior to the conclusion will follow the critical appraisal of her life and work in France from her death up to the present day, by closely analysing the differing French critical responses. The division of the thesis in this way will enable me to show how these various strands combine to create a legend which has little basis in fact, thereby demonstrating how reception and translation determine the importance of an author’s reputation in the literary world.