Adresse de la SEW à la Katherine Mansfield Society

À l’occasion du festival online Katherine Mansfield : International KM100NZ, 17-19 novembre 2023, pour célébrer le centenaire de la mort de l’auteure, la SEW a adressé aux participants le message suivant :

On 9 January 2023, a public event was held at the Katherine Mansfield Memorial in the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Park in Thorndon, Wellington, to mark the anniversary date of the centenary of Katherine Mansfield’s death. On Saturday 14 January, a special gathering was held at the grave of Katherine Mansfield in the cemetery at ‘Avon, France, to mark the centenary of her death. The ceremony was attended by dignitaries including the Mayor of Avon and New Zealand’s Ambassador to France, her Excellency Caroline Bilkey. Anne Besnault, senior lecturer at the University of Rouen Normandy and Vice-president of the French Woolf Society (Société d’Études Woolfiennes) gave a talk on Mansfield’s life and work to a full room at the Avon Library. Just over a month later, France’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Madame Laurence Beau hosted a reception at the French Residence in Thorndon to mark the centenary year of Katherine Mansfield’s death and the special literary connection between France and New Zealand. More recently, on 12 October 2023, the France–New Zealand Association celebrated the indomitable life and innovative writing of Katherine with an evening of talks, poetry, and music – including a world première – at Reid Hall, Paris 6. This is an ongoing story, just as the different, yet equally powerful story of Virginia Woolf and France is an ongoing one.

Strikingly, one of the most well-known Katherine Mansfield Scholars – Professor Claire Davison – was the President of the Société d’Études Woolfiennes between 2010-2016. Ever since it was founded by Christine Reynier in 1996, the SEW has been working to promote the study of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Circle in France, and to further links between Woolf scholars in France and their counterparts abroad. Although only a small society, the dedication of its founding and more recent members has enabled it to make its mark in French academic circles and beyond. Over the past 20 years international conferences have been held at Cerisy, Paris, Montpellier, Toulouse, Aix-en-Provence, Rouen-Normandie, Saint Etienne and the books or journal issues emerging from these encounters attest to the richness and diversity of Woolf studies in France. Let us also recall the way many of the SEW’s members have worked on Katherine Mansfield’s work/fiction: Marie Allègre, Anne Besnault, Adèle Cassigneul, Claire Davison, Anne- Marie Di Biasio, Marie-Dominique Garnier, Elsa Högberg, Monica Latham, Nathalie Pavec, Luca PInelli, Floriane Reviron-Piégay, Christine Reynier, to name but some of them.

Whether they address Mansfield’s and Woolf’s singular modernism and feminism; art of fiction and the short story; predecessors and followers; psychoanalytical reception; relationship to lost brothers, questions of class, gender, history and empire, these researchers are well aware that beyond the “rivalry” between the two writers and beyond their differences in terms of origins, class, personality, what Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf shared was a joyful, yet at times painful, passion for writing, a commitment to the intellectual andpolitical questions of their time, a sense that as women artists, they needed each other, just as they needed to fight for recognition in a still patriarchal world.

Some final words to conclude this short greetings message from our society to yours: quotations from the opening to “At the Bay” and The Waves, then “The Garden Party” and Mrs Dalloway to suggest how more work needs to be done on the relationship between these two “indomitable” figures of modernism:

“Very early morning. The sun was not yet risen, and the whole of Crescent Bay was hidden under a white sea-mist. The big bush-covered hills at the back were smothered. You could not see where they ended and the paddocks and bungalows began. […] A heavy dew had fallen. The grass was blue. » (“At the Bay”, 1922)

“The sun had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.” (The Waves, 1931)

“They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it. Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud. Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer” (“The Garden Party”, 1922).

“What a morning—fresh as if issued to children on a beach … How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning” (Mrs Dalloway, 1925)

Anne Besnault & Anne-Marie Di Biasio
For the SEW