This psychobiographical reading of Katherine Mansfield's stories links the fiction to particular traumas in Mansfield's life and speculates about the various motives at work in her use of personal pain as material for fiction. Each of seven chapters is focused upon a key event in Mansfield's life, including, for instance, the death of her younger sister, maternal rejection, venereal disease, and abortion.

Burgan draws widely upon psychological theory, including allusions to Freud, Breuer, Erikson, Horney and others. She also comments on Mansfield's own extensive writing about her own fiction including material from letters and journals that vex the question of how, whether, and to what extent to read the stories in light of the biographical backdrop.


Burgan's reading of Mansfield is widely informed by both literary and psychological theory. She makes a convincing case for the usefulness of psychobiographical reading, though at times such work can lead her reader away from rather than more deeply into the primary texts.

In her own reading she seems to provide a model of the "clinically alert" reader who can recognize unacknowledged secrets in a text as a good therapist does in confessional narrative, leaving her own readers to decide whether the imaginative or speculative component of such readings is finally an aid to understanding the fiction on its own terms. A readable and helpful book for those who are grappling with the question of how to find and assess relationships between illness and creative work.


Johns Hopkins Univ. Press

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