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‘I am short of puff’: Katherine Mansfield's Poetics of Breathing

‘I am short of puff’: Katherine Mansfield's Poetics of Breathing This article investigates the medical and aesthetic role of breath in Katherine Mansfield's writing. Through an examination of Mansfield's correspondence and her short stories ‘Prelude’ (1918) and ‘Bliss’ (1918), in parallel with early twentieth-century medical and fitness literature, I argue that respiration foregrounds a kind of form-shifting expansiveness, softening the body's edges and opening it up to forces beyond rational control, while also drawing attention to the self's limitations in forging meaningful bonds with others. While Mansfield often experienced respiration as physically painful – a disrupting force that separated her from her surroundings – she also imbued breath with hopeful and life-affirming qualities that carved out an affective and creative space of unlimited possibilities. As such, in Mansfield's writings, breath links up with a sense both of loss of control and desperation, and a desire to live, feel, and create. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modernist Cultures Edinburgh University Press

‘I am short of puff’: Katherine Mansfield's Poetics of Breathing

Modernist Cultures , Volume 17 (2): 23 – May 1, 2022

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Edinburgh University Press
ISSN
2041-1022
eISSN
1753-8629
DOI
10.3366/mod.2022.0371
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article investigates the medical and aesthetic role of breath in Katherine Mansfield's writing. Through an examination of Mansfield's correspondence and her short stories ‘Prelude’ (1918) and ‘Bliss’ (1918), in parallel with early twentieth-century medical and fitness literature, I argue that respiration foregrounds a kind of form-shifting expansiveness, softening the body's edges and opening it up to forces beyond rational control, while also drawing attention to the self's limitations in forging meaningful bonds with others. While Mansfield often experienced respiration as physically painful – a disrupting force that separated her from her surroundings – she also imbued breath with hopeful and life-affirming qualities that carved out an affective and creative space of unlimited possibilities. As such, in Mansfield's writings, breath links up with a sense both of loss of control and desperation, and a desire to live, feel, and create.

Journal

Modernist CulturesEdinburgh University Press

Published: May 1, 2022

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