Media, English and Culture Seminar, 8th November at 6pm
‘A child of the sun’: Katherine Mansfield’s Spiritual Journey, presented by Gerri Kimber
Katherine Mansfield’s last year of life was transformed by the reading of a book entitled Cosmic Anatomy and the Structure of the Ego, whose Eastern mystic philosophy she wholeheartedly embraced, and which made her all the more determined to seek a spiritual cure for her diseased body, since physical cures had proved worthless. In January 1922, from Switzerland, she wrote in her journal:
I have read a good deal of Cosmic Anatomy – understood it far better. Yes, such a book does fascinate me. […] To get even a glimpse of the relation of things, to follow that relation & find it remains true through the ages enlarges my little mind as nothing else does. (NB2: 313).
Vincent O’Sullivan notes that ‘“attract” is far too moderate a word’ for what Mansfield felt towards Cosmic Anatomy. On finishing the book, she wrote to her friend Violet Schiff that ‘she had ‘passed through a state of awful depression […] But I see my way now, I think. What saved me finally was reading a book called Cosmic Anatomy, and reflecting on it’.
This paper will explore Katherine Mansfield’s spiritual development, culminating in her decision to enter Gurdjieff’s ‘Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’ in Paris in the autumn of 1922: ‘I want to be all that I am capable of becoming so that I may be – […] a child of the sun’ (NB2: 286-7).
Dr Gerri Kimber is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Northampton. She is co-editor of Katherine Mansfield Studies, the peer-reviewed Journal of the Katherine Mansfield Society, published by Edinburgh University Press. She is the author of Katherine Mansfield: The View from France (2008), and A Literary Modernist: Katherine Mansfield and the Art of the Short Story (2008). She is co-editor of the four volume Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Katherine Mansfield, comprising two volumes of fiction, co-edited with Vincent O’Sullivan (2012), and two volumes ofnon-fiction, co-edited with Angela Smith (2013/14). She is also co-editor of Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism (2011), Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays (2011) and Framed! Essays in French Studies (2007). She has contributed chapters to many books, including The Great Adventure Ends (2013), Katherine Mansfield and Influence (2013), Bloomsbury: Inspirations and Influences (2013), Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism (2011), Translation and Censorship: Arts of Interference (2008), and Companion to the British Short Story and Short Fiction (2007). Gerri has been a keynote speaker at conferences in Slovakia, Switzerland and Wellington NZ, and in 2013 has been invited to give a lecture to the Women’s University of Japan in Tokyo, on the 90th anniversary of Mansfield’s death. She will be appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival next March, in conversation with Kathleen Jones. Gerri is Chair of the Katherine Mansfield Society and co-organised, in conjunction with the New Zealand Embassy in Paris, the Mansfield Symposium held in Menton, France, in September 2009, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship. Gerri is also on the committee of BAMS, the British Association for Modernist Studies.
Thumbnail image: KatherineMansfield via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)