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Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf$
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Gerri Kimber, Todd Martin, and Christine Froula

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474439657

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474439657.001.0001

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‘Roses blooming under glass; lips cut with a knife’: Hermeneutics of the Modern Female Face in Woolf and Mansfield

‘Roses blooming under glass; lips cut with a knife’: Hermeneutics of the Modern Female Face in Woolf and Mansfield

Chapter:
(p.87) ‘Roses blooming under glass; lips cut with a knife’: Hermeneutics of the Modern Female Face in Woolf and Mansfield
Source:
Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf
Author(s):

Halyna Chumak

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474439657.003.0007

Inspired by the interdisciplinary studies undertaken by Michael North and Rochelle Rives, this article examines conspicuous representations of the modern female face in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925) and Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Bliss’ (1918), ‘Pictures’ (1920), and ‘The Garden Party’ (1922). If writers and artists of the early twentieth century dispelled facile assumptions about a mimetic relationship between face and character, why are two modernist women writers so invested in highlighting the female face? I approach this query and the lexical visages Mansfield and Woolf craft by situating their work within a cultural-historical framework that constellates nineteenth-century physiognomy, a growing female presence in the public sphere, and the rise of modern visual technologies. Physiognomy had lost its cultural traction by the fin de siècle, but it left an indelible influence on cultural assumptions about women who crossed domestic thresholds. I demonstrate that Woolf and Mansfield convey a salient interest in the inscrutable female visage that resists being read as what Rives calls a ‘text for analysis and interpretation’. Both writers reveal concerns about the modern woman’s visual identification, but of the two, it is Mansfield who fashions corrective images and extricates the modern woman from her physiognomic past.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Modern Woman, New Woman, physiognomy

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