Modernist/Provincial/Pacific: Katherine Mansfield, Christina Stead and Expatriate Home Ground


  • Fiona Morrison UNSW


Christina Stead Katherine Mansfield


Rebecca Walkowitz, citing Said and others, suggests that the critical cosmopolitanism inherent in the work of several British modernists was underpinned by an awareness (among other things) of “the entanglement of domestic and international perspectives” and an “attempt to operate in the world... while preserving a posture of resistance”. Cosmopolitan modernism in these kinds of ‘critical’ robes offers a useful space in which to examine the work of settler colonial expatriate woman modernists. In particular, this paper will investigate the powerful, disruptive and often uneven return to home ground in the shape of Stead and Mansfield’s modernist narratives about their provincial cities of origin on the Pacific Rim. This paper takes as its starting point Christina Stead’s early work, Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934). While acknowledging the pressing complications of her identification with international socialism, what kind of interpretive traction do we gain by positing Stead’s participation in both Pacific and transnational modernism in her rendition of Sydney? Katherine Mansfield’s earlier New Zealand stories will provide further and quite different material for Tasman/Pacific oriented speculation about the nature of the expatriate modernist woman’s worldly recuperation of her colonial hometown.