Two new commentaries on the life and work of early twentieth century short story writer Katherine Mansfield may be aimed at completely different audiences, but each uses well-known facts in new ways. The first, a popular biography by Virginia Smith, nods at Mansfield’s origins at the edge of the British empire – she was born in 1888 in Wellington, New Zealand – but is ultimately much more interested in the ways Mansfield’s simultaneously defiant and needy personality made her one of the most important, though often overlooked, groundbreakers of literary modernism. Mansfield’s relationships with fellow writers D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, as well as with her critic-husband John Middleton Murray, are examined for evidence of Mansfield’s influence on them, rather than vice versa. Ms. Smith compellingly presents Mansfield as a social chameleon skilled at imitation and adaptation; this innate flexibility, the book argues, is the very trait that made only Mansfield capable of infusing the English literary scene with the influence of Russian writer Anton Chekhov. Though in the end Ms. Smith offers few new biographical details, the truly impressive aspect of this biography is her ability to shift easily between worn fact and compelling narrative.
Whereas the few shortcomings of Ms. Smith’s book may be attributed to lack of publishing experience, a second commentary from long-time professor Jim Jeffries can make no such excuse. Mr. Jeffries’ contribution is an often tedious biographical essay that introduces a new critical edition of Mansfield’s short stories. Jeffries’ work plods point-by-point along Mansfield’s biography, attempting to attribute the inspiration for each sparkling, artfully constructed story to a traumatic event in her life.
The result is not so much a portrait of Mansfield’s work as it is an ornate yet overly-simplified timeline. This offense is only compounded by Mr. Jeffries’ shallow interpretations of Mansfield’s most subtle and complex symbolism, and his continuing references to various critics and philosophers make the essay no more interesting than name-dropping at a cocktail party.
1, The passage above is primarily concerned with
(A) establishing an unknown writer as an important literary figure.
(B) comparing and contrasting two recent biographical works.
(C) arguing for a new interpretation of the life of a literary figure.
(D) disputing the credentials of a well-known literary critic.
(E) analyzing different uses of commonly-known biographical facts.
2, Which of the following forms the best conclusion to the second paragraph?
(A) However, Mr. Jeffries does manage to say considerably more about Mansfield’s relationship with Virginia Woolf than does Ms. Smith.
(B) In light of these facts, one can predict that Mr. Jeffries’ book will be far less popular than Ms. Smith’s.
(C) In short, though Mr. Jeffries had at his disposal the same biographical information as Ms. Smith, he manages to do considerably worse with it.
(D) Because of the many shortcomings of Mr. Jeffries’ book, it is likely that Ms. Smith will soon eclipse him as the predominant scholarly authority on Mansfield.
(E) Notwithstanding these many shortcomings, Mr. Jeffries has his long-standing critical reputation to recommend him to readers.
3, With which of the following statements about Mansfield’s relationships with other modernist writers would the author of the passage most likely agree?
(A) Fellow writers such as Lawrence and Woolf learned imitation and adaptation from Mansfield.
(B) The fact that Mansfield was both defiant and needy made her relationships with other writers difficult.
(C) Mansfield preferred her friendship with Chekhov to relationships with English writers Lawrence and Woolf.
(D) Mansfield’s personality was flexible enough to accommodate relationships with critics as well as with fellow writers.
(E) Mansfield’s influence on fellow writers, though often overlooked, is as significant as their influence on her.
4, The author most likely uses the word “plods” in this line in order to
(A) emphasize the tedious nature of the essay.
(B) criticize the essay’s excessive use of detail.
(C) highlight the essay’s method of connecting biography to literary output.
(D) mark a distinction between narrative and factual elements in the essay.
(E) draw attention to a preferred approach to biography.
OA later some discussion
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