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Introduction: Thinking Sideways through One’s Sisters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 May 2021

Gerri Kimber
Affiliation:
University of Northampton
Todd Martin
Affiliation:
University of Huntington, Indiana
Christine Froula
Affiliation:
Northwestern University, Illinois
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Summary

‘She's always there’, sighed someone at the 2017 Katherine Mansfield Conference when Virginia Woolf's name cropped up yet again, and the audience sighed with her: ‘she's always there’. Mansfield's ardent over-ture of friendship to Woolf launched a relationship of mutual admi-ration and fascination shot through with misunderstanding, wariness, rivalry and envy. Now ‘curious & thrilling’, now warm, absorbing and intimate; now distant, dormant, secretly dismissive, always competitive, often foundering in ‘quicksands’, their six-year friendship was, for all its ambivalence, uniquely valued by them both for the sake of their ‘precious art’. ‘You are the only woman with whom I long to talk work. There will never be another’, Mansfield declared in her last letter to Woolf. After her death, Woolf echoed, ‘Probably we had something in common which I shall never find in anyone else’; ‘K. & I had our relationship; & never again shall I have one like it.’ They embraced each other's passion for writing and stimulated mutual creative experi-ment until Mansfield's severe illness and early death put an end to their ‘priceless talk’. While Murry shepherded Mansfield's work into posthumous print, Virginia forged ahead on her own path for another eighteen years, influence and rivalry no longer mutual but (and still?) not ended.

If their asymmetrical lifespans shape their bodies of work, the Edinburgh Edition of Mansfield's Collected Works, following on earlier editions of her stories, essays, letters, notebooks and poems, establishes her place among her contemporaries and nourishes the ever-burgeoning study of Mansfield in myriad contexts, including her deep ‘affinity’ with Woolf. In 2015 Kathryn Simpson and Melinda Harvey edited a Special Topic section of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany on Woolf and Mansfield. Returning hospitality, Volume 10 of Katherine Mansfield Studies invites affinities, divergences and legacies and illuminate ways in which they are ‘there’ in one another's creative life and work. Woolf into its pages as scholars and creative writers explore these artists’

The enigmatically titled painting on our cover, The Other Room by Woolf's sister Vanessa Bell, suggests that women artists think not only ‘back through our mothers’, as Woolf observes in A Room of One's Own, but sideways through their sisters – not just blood-sister artists highlighted in the Woolf–Bell alliance but contemporaries such as Mansfield and Woolf, who have ‘the same job’ and share creative wellsprings.

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Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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