When I was at school and university English literature referred not just to the language but the country of origin because most of what we studied came from England.
There was nothing to stop me reading further afield myself however but in spite of that my discovery of the delights of Katherine Mansfield has been relatively recent and I’m ashamed to say still fairly shallow.
While I’m confessing I might as well admit that I’m not even sure where my favourite Mansfield quote comes from because I found it not in a book but a Marg Hamilton painting:
”It was one of those days so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.”
However, there is a new medium to increase both my knowledge and appreciation of the writer and her work – the newly created international Katherine Mansfield Society.
Society president, Emeritus Professor Vincent O’Sullivan, said in a press release the society has been set up to promote and encourage enjoyment of Mansfield’s writing which influenced a fundamental shift in the way stories are told.
“Katherine Mansfield’s influence is still being felt by writers and readers today, and we want to ensure this recognition continues. She is New Zealand’s greatest writer, and ironically there’s the likelihood of her becoming better known overseas than she is at home.”
To that end, he says, while the society is international, with people from England, Ireland, Australia, France and the United States involved in its creation, there is a strong New Zealand focus, and it is incorporated as a charitable trust in New Zealand.
“The Society will work to ensure Katherine Mansfield is on school and university curricula in New Zealand and overseas and aims to establish a Mansfield memorial in her home town of Wellington.
“We will also be creating a biennial Katherine Mansfield Society literary scholarship – a Rhodes scholarship for literature as it were – for work in the modernist sphere.”
The Society’s founders comprise Mansfield scholars from around the world: Emeritus Professor Angela Smith (UK), Emeritus Professor C. K. Stead (NZ), Dr Sarah Sandley (NZ), Dr Gerri Kimber (UK), Dr Sue Reid (UK), Dr Josiane Paccaud-Huguet (France), Janna Stotz (USA), Dr Melinda Harvey (Australia), Dr Anna Jackson (NZ), Dr Delia Da Sousa Correa (UK), Dr Jenny McDonnell (Ireland), Dr Sarah Ailwood (Australia), Professor Larry Mitchell (USA) and Professor Janet Wilson (UK).
Details of the society, including how to become a member, can be found on the Katherine Mansfield Society website.