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Katherine Mansfield and the (Post)colonial$
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Janet Wilson, Gerri Kimber, and Delia da Sousa Correa

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748669097

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748669097.001.0001

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Mansfield as (Post)colonial-Modernist

Mansfield as (Post)colonial-Modernist

Rewriting the Contract with Death

(p.29) Mansfield as (Post)colonial-Modernist
Katherine Mansfield and the (Post)colonial

Janet Wilson

Edinburgh University Press

The turn to the spiritual around 1920 as Mansfield’s health declined introduces a different accent to her modernism, since the (post)colonial critique notable in earlier stories, stemming from her ambivalent doubled insider/outsider position as a white settler subject, is now obliquely located in relation to representations of life being interpenetrated by death. This article examines Mansfield’s spirituality as attested in the mystical and occult states she enters into, and in the greater uncanny and spectral dimensions of her last stories. In her use of psychic resources to communicate with the souls of the dead, like those employed by mediums and psychics, and associated with the increase of paranormal activity of séances and other forms of telepathy after World War 1, she was not only exploring the limits of consciousness. Using creatively the medium of the occult and the supernatural enabled her to reconstruct her childhood with immediacy, re-emplace herself within her society of origin, and suggest a world of future possibility. At the end of her life Mansfield remained a modernist (post)colonial writer just as she was at the beginning, with the difference that locating death in a dialectic relationship with life through spiritual and occult forces, led to the construction of colonial spaces full of uncanny juxtapositions, discrepant perspectives and often unresolved ambiguities.

Keywords:   Mansfield, the occult, death, spiritual, uncanny, (post)colonial modernist, haunting

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