Biographical readings have sequestered Mansfield's satiric voice as dark other, but the relationship between satire and sentiment in her fiction is dialogic, meaning that both are double-voiced, not binaristically opposed. Countering gendered discussions of satire in the critical discourse, the author uses Northrup Frye's definition of “the central principal of ironic myth” as a “parody of romance,” Mikhail M. Bakhtin's discussions of the grotesque and parody as “an integral element in Menippean satire and in all carnivalized genres,” and Charles A. Knight's chapters “Satiric Nationalism” and “Satiric Exile” to explicate Mansfield's technique in “Germans at Meat,” showing that her purpose was to attack British as well as German nationalism from a colonialist stance of marginality and exile. After analyzing “The Swing of the Pendulum” as a transitional tale and discussing Mansfield's use of the satiric grotesque to parody national stereotypes during the war, the essay goes on to show that she evolved a more subtle parodic voice, producing tragicomic satire, as a direct result of the impact of Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1916. This genesis of Mansfield's satiric method culminated in “Je ne parle pas français,” where her mastery of parodistic skaz (narration as oral speech) and the influence of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground (1989) are elucidated. Finally, the essay discusses the “dialogic play” between “Je ne parle pas français” and “Bliss,” concluding that Mansfield's satiric method attains a tragic dimension through her ability to render the dialogic consciousness refusing monologic cultural finalization yet ironically at the same time finding itself existentially isolated by that very dialogism.
Martha C. Carpentier; Katherine Mansfield's Satiric Method from In a German Pension to “Je Ne Parle Pas Français”. Genre 1 June 2012; 45 (2): 299–327. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-1574321
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