Samuel Beckett, it is said, when
asked in Paris on one occasion if he were English, replied
unequivocally, ‘ au contraire ’. JeanRhys might have
said much the same. If she was sure about her identity in any way, it
was in her certainty that she was not English –
‘pseudo-English’ at the most, as she puts in her memoir,
Smile Please . 1 But what was she? In what sense
JeanRhys and drunken consciousness
Damned voice in my head.
JeanRhys published four novels across the 1920s and 1930s, all of
which have a central protagonist who is female, usually existing as a
kept woman or prostitute who is also frequently described as drinking
alcohol. In all four novels the life of the woman ends in despair.1 The
style of the novels is poetic, economical, and often fragmentary, with a
theme common to all of them being that of the outsider status of women.
Although the novels had some critical recognition at the time
Caribbean migration to Britain brought many new things—new music, new foods, new styles. It brought new ways of thinking too. This book explores the intellectual ideas that the West Indians brought with them to Britain. It shows that, for more than a century, West Indians living in Britain developed a dazzling intellectual critique of the codes of Imperial Britain. Chapters discuss the influence of, amongst others, C. L. R. James, Una Marson, George Lamming, Jean Rhys, Claude McKay and V. S. Naipaul. The contributors draw from many different disciplines to bring alive the thought and personalities of the figures they discuss, providing a picture of intellectual developments in Britain from which we can still learn much. The introduction argues that the recovery of this Caribbean past, on the home territory of Britain itself, reveals much about the prospects of multiracial Britain.
received literary texts by postcolonial writers. In so doing we shall be looking at two novels: Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), and JeanRhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) which engages with Brontë’s text.
Colonialism and the teaching of English literature
Mukherjee’s phrase ‘old canonical texts’ refers to the ‘canon’ of English literature: the writers and their work which are believed to be of particular, rare value for reasons of aesthetic beauty and moral sense. I shall be using the term ‘classic’ to refer to this kind of text. The inverted commas will be
fictional artifice feed into each other, while the layers of the story unfold with an appropriately mesmerising fluidity.
The convict is no less than a version of Magwitch from Dickens’s Great Expectations. Jack Maggs is Peter Carey’s Wide Sargasso Sea , an act of postcolonial retaliation against a parent culture. Like JeanRhys’s novel, it rewrites elements of a canonical text from the heart of the English literary tradition to reveal the hidden alternative history that cultural hegemony has effaced or suppressed. Carey ‘willingly admits to
Drinking to excess has been a striking problem for industrial and post-industrial
societies – who is responsible when a ‘free’ individual opts for a slow suicide?
The causes of such drinking have often been blamed on heredity, moral weakness,
‘disease’ (addiction), hedonism, and Romantic illusion. Yet there is another
reason which may be more fundamental and which has been overlooked or dismissed,
and it is that the drinker may act with sincere philosophical intent. The
Existential Drinker looks at the convergence of a new kind of excessive,
habitual drinking, beginning in the nineteenth century, and a new way of
thinking about the self which in the twentieth century comes to be labelled
‘Existential’. A substantial introduction covers questions of self, will,
consciousness, authenticity, and ethics in relation to drinking, while
introducing aspects of Existential thought pertinent to the discussion. The
Existential-drinker canon is anchored in Jack London’s ‘alcoholic memoir’ John
Barleycorn (1913), where London claims he can get at the truth of existence only
through the insights afforded by excessive and repeated alcohol use. The book
then covers drinker-texts such as Jean Rhys’s interwar novels, Malcolm Lowry’s
Under the Volcano, Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and John O’Brien’s Leaving
Las Vegas, along with less well-known works such as Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s
Notes, Venedikt Yerofeev’s Moscow–Petushki, and A. L. Kennedy’s Paradise. The
book will appeal to anybody with an interest in drinking and literature, as well
as those with more specialised concerns in drinking studies, Existentialism,
twentieth-century literature, and medical humanities.
depressing novels of JeanRhys, with whose sad heroines Hanif thought I identified’. He would later contrarily claim Rhys's dark and disturbing stories as his ‘comfort read’.
Rhys's grimly self-destructive female protagonists would remain associated in his mind with a particular femininity: ‘nervous and disappointed, chipped and gin-soaked, like a JeanRhys heroine in worn-out shoes’, as he would write in his novel Something to Tell You ( STTY 45).
At the Kureishi family home during the evenings
Bordering intimacy is a study of how borders and dominant forms of intimacy, such as family, are central to the governance of postcolonial states such as Britain. The book explores the connected history between contemporary border regimes and the policing of family with the role of borders under European and British empires. Building upon postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist theory, the investigation centres on how colonial bordering is remade in contemporary Britain through appeals to protect, sustain and make family life. Not only was family central to the making of colonial racism but claims to family continue to remake, shore up but also hide the organisation of racialised violence in liberal states. Drawing on historical investigations, the book investigates the continuity of colonial rule in numerous areas of contemporary government – family visa regimes, the policing of sham marriages, counterterror strategies, deprivation of citizenship, policing tactics, integration policy. In doing this, the book re-theorises how we think of the connection between liberal government, race, family, borders and empire. In using Britain as a case, this opens up further insights into the international/global circulations of liberal empire and its relationship to violence.
Emma Tennant’s Thornfield Hall, Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair and Gail Jones’s Sixty Lights
-political thrust’ and are concerned with revising culture’s ‘master-
narratives’ by ‘restoring a voice, a history and an identity to those hitherto
exploited, marginalized and silenced by dominant interests and ideologies’ (2006: 505–6). In this complicated layering, afterlives of Brontë’s
text are often, to a greater or lesser extent, also after-echoes of JeanRhys’s
influential post-colonial critique Wide Sargasso Sea (1966).
It was not just the state of insanity but indeed the dangers of false
imprisonment that preoccupied a number of nineteenth-century authors.
Third, we need to reflect on the particular forms of
knowledge which were produced. Here, as an example, we can turn to JeanRhys. 64 Rhys
does not sit comfortably in any given political tradition nor –
given the fact that she was white – is she easily accommodated
into any larger Caribbean collective. The degree to which her work can
claim any West Indian