That’s reading week done. My group and I chose not to rehearse during reading week but to get cracking on some of the pressing things we could do from afar so we were all able to have a slight rest and some time off from staging. We planned to have the script completed by the end of reading week and to have plenty of research on various other areas. My research this week has mainly been focused on Katherine Mansfield and Australia in the 1980’s (the time and place The Rivers of China was first written). We have also all been contributing to rewriting the script for our final performance by taking a scene or two each and rewriting and altering to fit our message of gender oppression.

Australia in the 1980’s:

  • Generation X – Suicide Generation. During the 80’s when this generation were teenagers, the teen suicide rate shot up. by 1990, the suicide rate among males aged 15-19 had more than tripled in Australia.
  • AID’s crisis forced people to confront homophobia
  • Ultrasound technology was introduced – sex selective abortions in China and India, used to abort baby girls.
  • 1984 – Band-Aid formed to raise awareness of the problems in Ethiopia.
  • 1986 – Australia gained full independence from the United Kingdom.

Katherine Mansfield:

  • Born in New Zealand, 14th October 1888 as Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp
  • As 3rd daughter and the fact that she wore glasses left her feeling ignored or neglected
  • She was writing from a young age and teachers described her as “imaginative to the point of untruth”
  • In 1903 the family moved to England, leaving Katherine, as she was now known at Queen’s College, a small school, specialising in the arts and languages.
  • It was here she began writing more before, at the age of 18, her parents moved her back to New Zealand.
  • Mansfield grew more and more rebellious in New Zealand before convincing her parents to let her return to London.
  • When her parents gave in, she led a very unconventional and carefree life involving erratic sexual behaviour with both men and women resulting in two unplanned pregnancies, both rumoured to have ended in miscarriage.
  • Due to her sexual involvement with women, her mother disinherited Mansfield.
  • Bisexual themes and sexual identity feature in a lot of her work – Bliss (1918) being the most notable.
  • Having always felt an outsider, when she met John Middleton Murry in 1911, her life stabilised to an extent, her affairs with both men and women continued but with less frequency.
  • From 1912 to 1914 Murry and Mansfield lived together on and off for months at a time before and finally married in 1918
  • In 1917, Mansfield was diagnosed with tuberculosis and despite growing more and more ill, she did not stop writing. Her work continued, often relating back to her own life – her childhood, her struggle with sexual identity and being an outcast.
  • In her final years she became interested in signs of the Russian ‘soul’ seeking the treatment of a Doctor Manoukhin before entering the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man run by George Gurdjieff. After three months here, however she passed away in 1923, aged just 34.
  • As more of a guest than a pupil of Gurdjieff’s she did not join in with the strenuous exercises of the institute, she grew very interested in Gurdjieff’s work and intended to introduce it into her own life.

George Gurdjieff:

  • George Invanovich Gurdjieff was born in Alexandrapol in approximately 1866.
  • Kept his early years and childhood fairly private
  • He is said to have joined a strange group inspired by the writings of Theosophical Society founder Helena Blavatsky.
  • He travelled across Asia in search of the Ascended Masters from who she claimed to channel her wisdom.
  • He wrote a heavily mythologised account of his travels
  • Gurdjieff spent his life travelling and teaching fusing Western and Eastern, old and modern traditions and focused on Hindu and Buddhist beliefs regarding reincarnation, non-attachment, classic harmony, self-awareness and self-development.
  • He looked into the three well-trodden paths to enlightenment – the way of the Fakir, the way of the Monk and the way of the Yogi and thought each was lacking, thus leading him to create his own way – combining the body, the soul and the emotions.
  • Despite all this, he was very much human and brazenly so – he loved to drink and enjoyed smoking opium. He is said to have fathered over 100 children as he had the belief that everything in life was about sex: “Everything that people do is connected with sex: politics, religion, art, the theatre, music, is all ‘sex’”

Below is a really fascinating and informative video on Mansfield’s life.


Poetry Foundation Katherine Mansfield [accessed 2 November 2017]

Seal, B. (2013) Gender, Truth and Reality: The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield [accessed 2 November 2017]


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