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Jean Rhys Page by Alana Harding for English 492

Jean Rhys Information

Web Links And Information Links

1. Jean Rhys Biography: This site provides a general overview of Rhys's life, and of her relationship with the black people of Dominica. This site also provides some plot and thematic overviews of some of Rhys's fiction.
2. Jean Rhys 1894-1979 : This site provides a summary of Rhys's life in relation to the writing of __Wide Sargasso Sea__.
3. Jean Rhys, __Wide Sargasso Sea__ (1966): This site also summarizes Rhys's life and contrasts it with her writing career. As well, it provides thematic considerations of __Wide Sargasso Sea__: Colonialism, Sanity, Dreams, Hatred, and Evil.
4. Slavery and the Caribbean.
5. The Importance of History in Caribbean Writing.
6. The Postcolonial Woman as a Terminological Problem: At this site Georg P. Landow quotes Sara Suleri as saying,
7. Gender, Race, and Class: This page points out that gender, race, and class are interconnected, but they are interconnected in very complex ways.

Web Addresses (Links not working, but information links are working Jean Rhys Biography http://edu-ss10/ Jean Rhys 1894-1979 Jean Rhys, __Wide Sargasso Sea__ (1966) Slavery and the Caribbean. The Importance of History in Caribbean Writing. The Postcolonial Woman as a Terminological Problem Gender, Race, and Class:

Web Research Overview

The information available on the Internet about Jean Rhys and her work is general in nature. Most sites mention that Rhys was born in Dominica to a Welsh doctor and a Creole mother, and that she moved to England at the age of sixteen. From biographical information it is often inferred that Rhys's fiction is either autobiographical or has elements of autobiography in it. I do not believe Rhys's fiction should be read as autobiographical because that makes Rhys herself the primary focus of study instead of her fiction and the themes found within it. Along with general overviews of Rhys's life and her fiction there is also much praise for her ability to construct literary fiction. However, I found no detailed analysis of any of her texts or of cultural issues raised in them.

Overview of sites 1-3: The Rhys sites:

As previously stated, these sites are very general. But there are several biases about literature and culture in them. All of these sites mention aspects of Rhys's life that can be seen (and are) as indicative of autobiography in Rhys's fiction. The assumption is that not only has personal experience and cultural conditions influened Rhys's writing, but also that her personal beliefs and life can be inferred from her fiction. From a New Critical perspective this kind of reading entails the intentional fallacy because New Critics view literature as self-contained-- analysis ought to be objective. That is, internal aspects of the text are analyzed in relation to each other. Social, historical, and cultural factors are ignored. The underlying assumption here is a belief in the universality of "good literature", a concept which Chinua Achebe equates with Euro-centric thoughtin "Colonialist Criticism." There are cultural assumptions made in a so called objective analysis of literature, but they are so embedded in our way of thinking that they seem objective.

The study of post-colonial and international literature is often directly opposed to the New Critical mode of reading, and in fact calls into question some of the assumptions behind the New Critical mode of reading. In the study of international literature forces such as imperialism and colonization are investigated as cultural influences, and factors such as social systems, economics, and racial and sexual assumptions (often ungrounded and derogatory)are investigated in relation to the individual and culture.

Traditionally, then, (that is, in the Western tradition) literature is seen as an aesthetic object, but in the field of international literature it becomes a source for investigating culture. One can see then that an author's individual cultural situation and experiences will influence his/her writing, but that does not mean that literature will necessarily reflect an author's values. It becomes necessary to separate Rhys from her fiction, unless Rhys herself is the object of study and not the cultural themes raised by her fiction, such as the Creole woman's place in English society.
Overview of sites 6 and 7:

These last two sites provide necessary insights for understanding Rhys's protagonists, who are often Creole women in socially subordinate positions. Race, gender, and class all surface in Rhys's novels. For example, Anna in Voyage in the Dark is a Creole chorus girl/prostitute in England; Sasha in Good Morning, Midnight is a poor woman of unknown nationality in Paris; and Antoinette in Wide Sargasso Sea is a Creole who is destitute as a child, but wealthy enough as a young woman to be married for her money. But these women are not icons of virtue, as Sara Suleri says the postcolonial woman is often simplified as. They have been exploited by others, and often the English social or legal system contributes to their exploitation, but in some cases their own actions contribute to thier exploitation. Their positioning, however, does illuminate many problems not only within English culture but also within Caribbean culture.