Katherine Mansfield and memory: Bergsonian readings
Jones, Jacqueline Clare Elaine
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This thesis is the first full-length study to investigate memory discourse in Katherine Mansfield’s short stories. It presents multiple close readings of the ways in which memory is inscribed in Mansfield’s stories, taking an approach to memory drawn from the philosophy of the French philosopher Henri Bergson. What Mansfield and Bergson share in common is an idea of the insistence of memory – its survival, determination, assertion and resistance – during a period of multiple social and historical change when memory was variously seen to be in crisis. Bergson’s distinctive theory of memory which opposes temporalism (or ‘time in the mind’) with measured (or ‘spatialised’) time provides a rich interpretive tool for analysing memory in Mansfield’s fiction. Following phases of Bergson’s developing thinking, each of the four chapters introduces a different dimension of memory – the generative, the topological, the degenerative and the cosmic – through which I analyse The Aloe and Prelude, ‘At the Bay’, ‘The Garden Party’, ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’, ‘Bliss’ and ‘The Canary’ as well as other less well-known examples of Mansfield’s fictional and personal writings. What emerges from this process is a new Mansfield acutely sensitive to the insistent power of memory and the attenuation of time past into the present, concurrent with some of her modernist contemporaries, yet especially attuned to the signal and significant thought of Bergson.