Katherine Mansfield and T.S. Eliot: A Literary Frisson

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review

Abstract

Katherine Mansfield and T. S. Eliot had a friendly but fraught relationship in which her initial admiration turned into wariness, and his attitude to her became openly hostile. Their acquaintance began through the Bloomsbury Circle, and was reinforced by Mansfield’s enthusiasm for ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, of which she said: ‘that’s what I want modern poetry to be’, and ‘it is after all, a short story’. But by 1920 she saw his poetry as ‘unspeakably dreary’, while he formed the view that she was ‘a thick skinned toady’, and ‘a dangerous WOMAN’. Theirs was an ambivalent relationship that became mired in antagonism and betrayal.

The chapter discusses the influence of Eliot’s avant garde modernism on Mansfield’s artistic practice at this time, evident in verbal echoes and allusions from early poems like “Preludes” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” in stories and sketches like “The Common Round” and “Pictures.” . It focuses on Mansfield’s story “Feuille D’Album” in relation to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” whose study of inhibited, alienated subjectivity inspired a semi-realist fantasy and revised cityscape, that show advances in her modernist narrative technique. Published in September 1917, just after Mansfield first read ‘Prufrock’ in June , this story is read as a gendered ‘writing back’ to Eliot’s inhibited, procrastinating protagonist, and it is contextualised with testimony about Eliot’s behaviour in the company of women then. Ironically, Mansfield is a satirical target of Eliot’s enigmatic prose piece “Eeldrop and Appleplex,”’ published in The Little Review in the same month of 1917. Whether Mansfield knew of Eliot’s writing on her or whether Eliot read Mansfield’s stories as comments on him (and on him and Vivien) is not known; nevertheless such fictional reconstructions of each other provide new contexts for understanding their problematic relationship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKatherine Mansfield and the Bloomsbury Group
EditorsTodd Martin
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing PLC
Chapter5
Pages73-90
Number of pages18
Edition1st
ISBN (Print)9781474298988
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Janet M. Wilson is Professor of English and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Northampton, UK. She has published widely on the literature and cinema of the white settler societies of Australia and New Zealand. Her current research interests are in Katherine Mansfield, postcolonial studies more generally, diaspora writing and criticism, transnationalism, and refugee and slum writing. She is Vice-Chair of the Katherine Mansfield Society and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Postcolonial Studies, and coeditor of the book series Studies in World Literature.

Keywords

  • Katherine Mansfield
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Paris
  • Feuille D'Album
  • The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
  • Garsington
  • Bloomsbury circle
  • Eeldrop and Appleplex
  • mask and disguise

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Katherine Mansfield and T.S. Eliot: A Literary Frisson'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this