«The perfect afternoon slowly ripened». Inherent links between The Garden-Party and Mrs Dalloway

Fiorella Guerra (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Dipartimento di Studi Linguistici e Culturali Comparati)

Abstract

While the importance of gardens for Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf has been widely acknowledged, no critical study has examined how the interconnections between the two writers and the natural world are reflected in Mansfield’s short story “The Garden-Party” (1922) and Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway (1925). Albeit Woolf claimed she would not read The Garden-Party and Other Stories, these works share key analogies, and the drafting of Mrs Dalloway overlaps with Mansfield’s death in 1923, which deeply affected Woolf. Moving from the web of relations that gardens weave in the authors’ lives and reflections on writing, epitomised by Ottoline Morrell’s garden parties at Garsington Manor and the fictional gardens of “The Garden-Party” and Mrs Dalloway, this essay identifies the ‘perfect hostesses’ of the two literary works — Mrs Sheridan, her daughter Laura, and Clarissa Dalloway — with Demeter and Persephone, and explores the underlying links between nature, the feminine, and classical culture.

DOI: 10.4424/lam122023-12

Keywords

English Literature, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, History of Women, Classical Reception.

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