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'Creating the "English Chekhov": Middleton Murry, Anton Chekhov, and the buried life of Katherine Mansfield'

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Elinor Shaffer FBA.

The talk begins at 5pm in the Meeting Room, Clare Hall main building, and will conclude with a glass of wine/juice at 6.45 pm. The event is open to all and no booking is required.

Précis: ‘Anton Chekhov became an increasingly important figure for Katherine Mansfield in the last five years of her life. In a ‘dialogue’ with Chekhov that runs through her letters and notebooks, Mansfield contemplated the writer’s vocation, literary form, illness, life, death, and time. When John Middleton Murry edited her letters for publication after her death (turning Mansfield into an ‘English Tchekhov’, as S. S. Koteliansky commented in disgust), he left barely a trace of her reading of Chekhov, and almost entirely erased from the record the year of strenuous work she did on Koteliansky’s literal translations of Chekhov’s Letters for publication in the Athenaeum. In this paper, I will explore Mansfield’s engagement with Chekhov (paying particular attention to the letter as a literary genre) and her muted though intense contest with Murry over the question of Chekhov’s English reception.’

Dr Rachel Polonsky teaches in the Department of Slavonic Studies. Her scholarly interests include nineteenth and twentieth-century poetry, fiction, and memoir, often with a comparative emphasis, and the place of Russian literature in the overlapping contexts of cultural, intellectual, and political history. She has published numerous essays, articles, and reviews on a wide variety of subjects in scholarly journals and anthologies, and is a frequent contributor to the Times Literary Supplement among other periodicals. Her books include Molotov’s Magic Lantern: A Journey in Russian History (Faber and Faber, 2010) and English Literature and the Russian Aesthetic Renaissance (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

The talk is part of the programme of the Reading & Reception Studies Seminar. Further details of the Seminar can be found at:

Details of how to find the venue can be found at:

Image: B. Bennet Alder, ‘Katherine Mansfield in 1913’ (1930) watercolour over photograph

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