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Back and down: narrative, psychoanalysis and progress in the novels of Jean Rhys

Cook, JK; (2016) Back and down: narrative, psychoanalysis and progress in the novels of Jean Rhys. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to examine Jean Rhys’s novels from a psychoanalytic perspective. While Rhys’s fiction is undeniably autobiographically informed, the intent of this study is to explore the life of the fiction rather than that of its author. Each of Rhys’s five novels – Quartet (1929), After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1931), Voyage in the Dark (1934), Good Morning, Midnight (1939), and Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) – chronicles the suffering, trauma, and loss experienced by its respective protagonist. As such, Rhys's oeuvre is imbued with a sense of fragmentation that renders her work particularly rich literary material for psychoanalytic criticism, though to date little has been applied to her works. Looking at each of the author's five individual novels as connected in terms of the issues they explore, this thesis tracks the development of Rhys's works as she systematically explores issues of trauma, maternity, desire, and loss through her characters. My argument is that Rhys’s novels represent a literary and psychological progressions inwards, in which her heroines increasingly tolerate psychological spaces infused with strife, demonstrate self-awareness, and develop empathy; my thesis will explore how and by what means this process occurs. Drawing on existing criticism on Rhys’s work, which consists predominantly of feminist and postcolonial studies, I will look at the issues and themes of Rhys’s oeuvre in conjunction with the psychoanalytic works and theories of Freud and Lacan. This study aims to be an interdisciplinary examination of Rhys’s texts and hopes to offer a potentially valuable and largely unexplored way of reading and appreciating her work.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Back and down: narrative, psychoanalysis and progress in the novels of Jean Rhys
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1501121
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