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Reading: The Anxiety of Racialized Sexuality in Jean Rhys

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The Anxiety of Racialized Sexuality in Jean Rhys

Author:

Yanoula Athanassakis

New York University
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Abstract

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This article centers on Dominican-born Jean Rhys’s novel Good Morning, Midnight (1939). Rhys’s West Indian roots are often referenced and Anglicized both in terms of, and because of, her engagement with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (vis-à-vis Wide Sargasso Sea). I argue that Good Morning, Midnight’s protagonist, Sasha Jensen, refracts the uniquely Caribbean experience of dislocation through the modernist aesthetic of detachment. Good Morning, Midnight is the last book in a series of four that Rhys published in a period of eleven years after World War I. The disturbingly ambiguous nature of her characters reveal the complex intersectionality of race and gender in “foreign” bodies and the ways that Rhys searched to recalibrate the discourse of colonial modernism.

Jean Rhys’s fiction features disjointed, hybrid, and fractured female characters that seem to lack any type of agency, but are champions of survival. Without discounting Rhys’s seminal contribution to Caribbean women’s literature (largely through Wide Sargasso Sea), her oeuvre demands a deeper engagement. Rhys’s female protagonists refuse to comply with networks of power outside of their control. Their movement signals an implicit critique of unjust hegemonic structures (patriarchal and colonial) and foreshadows recent developments in postcolonial feminist studies.

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How to Cite: Athanassakis, Y.. “The Anxiety of Racialized Sexuality in Jean Rhys”. Anthurium, vol. 13, no. 2, 2016, p. 7. DOI: http://doi.org/10.33596/anth.319
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Published on 22 Dec 2016.
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