Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys

Synopsis

Elaine Savory's study is a critical reading of Rhys' entire oeuvre, including the stories and autobiography, and is informed by recently released unpublished manuscripts by Rhys. Designed both for the serious scholar and those unfamiliar with Rhys' writing, Savory's book insists on the importance of a Caribbean-centered approach to Rhys, and shows how this context profoundly affects her literary style. Informed by contemporary arguments on race, gender, class and nationality, this study offers a comprehensive account of the life and work of this most complex and enigmatic of writers.

Excerpt

Jean Rhys and her texts have been interpreted by different critics and theorists in strikingly different ways. She and they are in those readings: Caribbean, English, European; feminist and antifeminist; elite, working class, marginal; white and white Creole; outsider and insider; ageless and of her time. But one identity can hold all of these contradictory facets: Rhys is a Caribbean writer. In her very complexity and contradictoriness, in important aspects of her writing style and in her fictional portrayal of race, ethnicity, class, gender and nationality, she is best understood within the richly diverse tradition of Caribbean literature and culture. The scribal aspect of this tradition has largely come into being as part of local and global anti- or post-colonial movements but equally as much as an important component of nation-building. At this time, almost the turn of the century, Caribbean writing reflects both the extensive migration of Caribbean peoples to Europe, America and Canada and also the need to confirm and define nationality and regional identity.

Rhys reflects two major facets of Caribbean culture: a multi+faceted cosmopolitanism which searches out complexity and a desire for home and belonging which seeks an uncomplicated self-definition. Like Caribbean culture, her writing is both metropolitan and anti-metropolitan, both colonial and anti-colonial, both racist and anti-racist, both conventional and subversive. In the best and most creative ways, her textuality demonstrates a refusal to be absolutely coherent and therefore an acceptance of unresolved ambiguity, ambiguity which permits creative innovation and which is in effect politically anarchist, in the sense of resisting centralised and authoritative readings of experience.

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