Knowing their space: feminist geography and embodiment in Katherine Mansfield's short stories
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 14:13 authored by Samantha Lewis
This thesis offers an approach to literary space in which the gendered bodies of focalizing characters are 're-read' in accordance with contemporary feminist geographical understandings of space. While experimental literary techniques produced primarily at the turn of the century - stream of consciousness, free indirect discourse, and shifting focalization - are generally understood as revealing how individual minds grappled with modernity, these techniques can also be used to investigate the role of the gendered body in the construction of literary and non-literary spaces. This is done by drawing upon the sub-discipline of feminist geography and the gendered politics of positionality. Feminist geographers argue that our gendered identities fundamentally shape how we experience and understand our spaces, while also dismantling the historical public/private, work/home, masculine/feminine binaries that have structured spatial and gender relations throughout history. By introducing 'feminine' bodies to the construction of space and spatial knowledge, feminist geographers offer an alternative epistemiology that validates 'feminine' embodied processes of emotion and imagination in the construction and experience of our spaces, particularly 'feminine' spaces like the home. The literary techniques developed by many women modernist writers - techniques this thesis re-conceptualises as 'techniques of embodiment' - can be re-read through feminist geographical theory. This new understanding also extends to how texts position the reader through 'techniques of embodiment' to reflect upon the role of the gendered body in our constrction and experience of space in both literature and beyond.