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Jean Rhys

Twenty-First-Century Approaches

Edited by Erica L Johnson, Patricia Moran

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Presents new critical perspectives on Jean Rhys in relation to modernism, postcolonialism, and theories of affect

Jean Rhys (1890-1979) is the author of five novels and over seventy short stories. She has played a major figure in debates attempting to establish the parameters of postcolonial and particularly Caribbean studies, and although she has long been seen as a modernist writer, she has also been marginalized as one who is not quite in, yet not quite out, either. The 10 newly commissioned essays and introduction collected in this volume demonstrate Jean Rhys’s centrality to modernism and to postcolonial literature alike by addressing her stories and novels from the 1920s and 1930s, including Voyage in the Dark, Quartet, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, and Good Morning, Midnight, as well as her later bestseller, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). The volume establishes Rhys as a major author with relevance to a number of different critical discourses, and includes a path-breaking section on affect theory that shows how contemporary interest in Rhys correlates with the recent 'affective turn' in the social sciences and humanities. As this collection shows, strangely haunting and deeply unsettling, Rhys’s portraits of dispossessed women living in the early and late twentieth-century continue to trouble easy conceptualisations and critical categories.

Key Features:

  • New and original work on Jean Rhys’s fiction and short stories, highlighting key areas of her work.
  • Contributors are leading scholars on Jean Rhys from the US, the UK, and Australia, including Mary Lou Emery, Elaine Savory, John J. Su, Maroula Joannou, H. Adlai Murdoch, Rishona Zimring, Carine Mardorossian, Patricia Moran, Erica L. Johnson, and Sue Thomas.
  • Organised around 3 important themes: Rhys and modernism, postcolonial Rhys, and affective Rhys


Notes on Contributors
List of Figures
Introduction, Patricia Moran and Erica L. Johnson
I. Rhys and Modernist Aesthetics
1. Sue Thomas (LaTrobe University), ‘Jean Rhys and Katherine Mansfield Writing the “Sixth Act”’
2. Rishona Zimring (Lewis and Clark College), ‘Making a Scene: Rhys and the Aesthete at Mid-Century’
3. Mary Lou Emery (University of Iowa), ‘On the Veranda: Jean Rhys’s Material Modernism’
II. Postcolonial Rhys
4. Elaine Savory (The New School), ‘Rhys’s Fictional Environment: A Postcolonial Ecocritical Reading’
5. Carine Mardorossian (SUNY Buffalo), ‘Caribbean Formations in the Rhysian Corpus’
6. Maroula Joannou (Anglia Ruskin University), ‘”From Black to Red”: Jean Rhys’s Use of Dress in Wide Sargasso Sea’
7. H. Adlai Murdoch (Tufts University), ‘The Discourses of Jean Rhys: Creole Indeterminacy, Radical Ambivalence and Postcolonial Resistance’
III. Affective Rhys
8. John J. Su (Marquette University), ‘The Empire of Affect: Reading Rhys after Postcolonial Studies’
9. Patricia Moran (University of Limerick), ‘”the feelings are always mine”: Chronic Shame and Humiliated Rage in Jean Rhys’s Fiction’
10. Erica L. Johnson (Pace University), ‘”Upholstered Ghosts”: Jean Rhys’s Posthuman Imaginary’

About the Author

Erica L. Johnson is currently Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of English at Pace University. She is the author of Caribbean Ghostwriting (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2009) and of Home, Maison, Casa: The Politics of Location in Works by Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, and Erminia Dell’Oro (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003) and the co-editor, with Patricia Moran, of The Female Face of Shame (Indiana University Press, 2013).

Patricia Moran is Reader in English and Head of Department at City, University of London. Prior to joining City she held appointments at the University of Limerick and the University of California, Davis. She has published widely on women modernists, including Katherine Mansfield, Jean Rhys and Virginia Woolf.


Jean Rhys’s persistent "strangeness" continues to unsettle the theoretical categories used to interpret her work and our own social structures. These new essays by leading Rhys scholars offer fascinating insights into Rhys’s oeuvre and its influence on 21st century understandings of global modernism, ecocriticism, affect studies, and posthumanist theory. These perspectives, by Rhys and her critics, are essential for these new times.

- Judith Raiskin, Associate Professor at the Women's and Gender Studies Department, University of Oregon

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