British Culture and Society 1700 to the Present – Essays in Honour of Professor Emma Harris
Foreignness in Katherine Mansfield’s Bliss and Other Stories
An outsider throughout her life, Katherine Mansfield was a particularly sensitive observer of national habits and peculiarities. She satirized them in her first volume of stories, In a German Pension (1911), “chiefly concerned with the bizarre incongruities of foreign behaviour” (Baker vi). In Bliss and Other Stories (1919), her second collection, Mansfield expanded her perception of human nature beyond national stereotyping, though in most of the stories she continued to employ foreign travel, settings, and characters. The volume evokes diverse geographical locations, from places in New Zealand, like Wellington and its nearby rural retreat Karori, where the author grew up, in such stories as the opening and longest “Prelude” or “The Wind Blows”, through London in “Bliss” and most of the stories, Paris and France in some, like “Feuille d’Album”, to Germany and Munich in one story, “The Little Governess”. Given the conciseness of her favourite form, it is understandable that Mansfield does not dwell on the minutiae of time and place, but aptly creates a general ambience. The aim of this paper, therefore, is to analyse the meanings of foreign motifs in selected stories and their possible implications for intercultural dialogue.
“A Dill Pickle” features a subtle use of foreignness for characterisation and theme. It is a story of a failed relationship: former lovers meet accidentally at a London café and for a moment it seems they might reunite, but in the end the woman leaves, abandoning the man again. The story consists almost entirely...
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