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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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Colonialism and the Need for Impurity

Colonialism and the Need for Impurity

Katherine Mansfield, ‘The Garden Party’ and Postcolonial Feeling

Chapter:
(p.45) Colonialism and the Need for Impurity
Source:
Katherine Mansfield and the (Post)colonial
Author(s):

Emmanouil Aretoulakis

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748669097.003.0004

The postcolonial, as feeling or experience much more than objective situation or material condition, is constituted by a continuous oscillation from the colonial to the anti-colonial, to de-colonisation and back. Katherine Mansfield is a figure who encapsulates the postcolonial precisely as a mechanism of generating, but also containing or resisting, sites of cultural and literary imperialism as well as grand narratives of purity. My purpose is to show how the overlap of the colonial and the postcolonial in her life and work is exemplified in the radical interpenetration of life and death, or even ‘purity’ and ‘impurity’, within her thought processes. For Mansfield, death is gradually perceived as integral to a proper way of living; that is, the point of realising that life without the possibility of death is experienced as sterile and therefore as a kind of spiritual death. Mansfield represents a radicalised version of the postcolonial to the extent that she moves from the colony, New Zealand, to the Western metropolitan centre, the very source of colonialism, only to discover that her own sense of identity is in excess of the conventional dichotomy ‘colonising centre-colonised periphery’ or ‘colonial/anti-colonial’. In ‘The Garden Party’, written in Switzerland towards the end of her life (1921), Mansfield enacts the aforementioned interpenetration or interplay between living and dying but also problematises unknowingly the colonial and the postcolonial as ‘pure’ concepts.

Keywords:   beauty, postcolonial, Bhabha, impurity, metropolis, ‘The Garden Party’

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