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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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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

The Fly and the Displaced Self: Affective Potential in the Epiphanic Moments of Mansfield, Woolf and Lawrence

The Fly and the Displaced Self: Affective Potential in the Epiphanic Moments of Mansfield, Woolf and Lawrence

Chapter:
(p.102) The Fly and the Displaced Self: Affective Potential in the Epiphanic Moments of Mansfield, Woolf and Lawrence
Source:
Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf
Author(s):

Cheryl Hindrichs

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474439657.003.0008

Katherine Mansfield’s claim that she and Elizabeth von Arnim are ‘worms of the same family’ would seem a curious analogy. But this deprecatory trope aligning the writer’s perspective with an insect’s, nonetheless, uses commonly held assumptions to interrogate gendered subjectivity and class dichotomies in the postwar world. In ‘The Fly,’ Mansfield depicts a businessman distracted by the seemingly harmless entertainment of dousing a housefly with ink; his god-like play with the fly evokes an attempt to master trauma – the loss of his son in the war, his consequent lack of purpose, and his complicity. Likewise, Mabel Waring in Virginia Woolf’s ‘The New Dress’ compulsively repeats an image she’s conjured of a fly crossing a saucer as a bulwark against the sense of irrelevance she feels in upper-class society. In Kangaroo, D.H. Lawrence’s writer Richard Somers faces a dark night of the soul trying on and rejecting different ideologies in order to secure a sense of purpose in his work; he sees himself as a fly harrowingly climbing up and continually falling back into a pot of ointment. Each protagonist considers or takes on the point of view of a housefly, attempting to master a trauma that, seen fully, would threaten his or her identity. These scenes should be an affective climax, however, as the deprecating choice of a housefly suggests, they are instead moments not of epiphany or emotional release but of existential impasse.

Keywords:   Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, ‘The Fly’, ‘The New Dress’, Kangaroo, gender, identity, epiphany, affect theory

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