Katherine Mansfield and Visual Culture

  • Faye Harland

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The relationship between modernist fiction and visual culture has received substantial critical attention in recent years. However, many of the studies on this intermediality focus primarily on the drama, poetry, and novels of male authors, with Virginia Woolf being the only significant exception to this rule. I propose that this engagement with the visual in modernist fiction has a different social and cultural significance in the works of women writers. With reference to the short stories of Katherine Mansfield, I will explore the attempt to establish a female literary voice in what was perhaps the greatest transitory period for the role of women in the Western world.

    Although studies exist that consider the relationship between Mansfield’s writing and modern art and cinema, this thesis will provide a wider context for this period of cultural history. I take a variety of technological advancements into account, examining they ways in which they collectively provided the inspiration behind modernist literature’s new subjectivity of vision. As well as film, I will discuss the arts that developed prior to or alongside it, from the magic lantern to photography, and the impact they had on literature as writers sought new forms of representation. Furthermore, I believe that I will be able to examine this shift in cultural consciousness in a unique way through my focus on Mansfield, an author whose experimental work has received far less critical attention in terms of its engagement with other media than that of her contemporaries. Through reference to the visual arts, Mansfield was able to subjectively focalise her short stories through the eyes of her characters, presenting the ways in which women see and are seen in early twentieth-century society.
    Date of Award2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKeith Williams (Supervisor) & Mary Modeen (Supervisor)


    • Modernism
    • Visual culture
    • Katherine Mansfield
    • Impressionism
    • Early cinema
    • Women's Literature

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