Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Jacob Sider Jost

Language

English

Abstract

Katherine Mansfield’s short stories, which primarily focus on the lived experiences of women, are by turns humorous and dark, satirical and honest, banal and brutal. Her female characters both perform and defy female-gendered roles, and ultimately succumb to the patriarchal subjugation under which they have been repressed, often without conscious recognition of that oppression. This paper argues that such pessimism is a form of feminist satire, where Mansfield uses authorial irony to reveal to the reader, if not her characters, the silencing and suffering that women experience in a patriarchal system. Mansfield locates her feminist satire in the intersections of feminine-gendered issues: sexuality and sexual naivete, female-coded illnesses like hysteria, and motherhood. In an analysis of “Bliss,” “The Little Governess,” “At ‘Lehmann’s,” “The Child-Who-Was-Tired,” and “The Woman at the Store,” this paper reads Mansfield’s stories through both the historical context of her contemporary moment and her biography, which it sees as a legitimate resource for studies of Mansfield’s stories under the critically feminist perspective that the ‘personal is political.’ Mansfield’s stories are not feminist in the sense that she writes female characters who overcome barriers to their liberation. Her feminism is instead exemplified in the creation of female characters who do not and cannot articulate their suffering: through Mansfield’s satire, women’s silences ironically give them voice.

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