Miss Brill

A comparative study of James Joyce’s “Clay” & Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” College

In a letter written to Violet Schiff in April 1922, Mansfield frames her brief encounter with Joyce as follows: “…I had no idea until then of his view of Ulysses — no idea how closely it was modelled on the Greek story, how absolutely necessary it was to know the one through and through to be able to discuss the other. I’ve read the Odyssey and am more or less familiar with it but Murry [Mansfield’s husband] and Joyce simply sailed out of my depth. I felt almost stupefied…” In spite of these discouraging comments, a close look at Mansfield’s work reveals that she has much more in common with the Irish writer than she was ready to admit to. This commonality includes both themes and techniques employed by the two short story writers. The latter has already caught the eye of various scholars.

In the last chapter of his book on Mansfield, Patrick D. Morrow allocates a few pages to the issue. He points out that both Joyce and Mansfield, in their short story writing, have dispensed with traditional plot, i.e., a linear narration which starts with an “explanatory or preparatory” paragraph, reaches a climax and then a conclusion. Abrupt openings coupled with explanations which are more baffling than clarifying are among other stylistic...

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