Anxious beginnings : mental illness, reproduction and nation building in ‘Prelude’ and 'Prelude to Christopher’

Sarah Ailwood

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This article explores relationships between Katherine Mansfield’s ‘Prelude’ and Eleanor Dark’s Prelude to Christopher. Mansfield’s presence in Australian literary culture of the interwar period, together with Dark’s knowledge of her writing, indicates that Dark was influenced, perhaps directly, by ‘Prelude’ when she wrote Prelude to Christopher. Both texts use modernist literary techniques to explore relationships between mental and physical illness and reproduction in the context of emerging feminist politics. The colonial contexts of ‘Prelude’ and Prelude to Christopher impact the treatment of modernist themes by interrogating the socially-prescribed role of woman as childbearer in the nation-building politics of the new colonial nation and its cultural, economic and scientific ideologies. Investigating links between Mansfield and Australian modernist women writers points to the possibility of a regional response to modernism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-38
Number of pages19
JournalKatherine Mansfield Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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