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Jean RhysTwenty-First-Century Approaches$
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Erica Johnson and Patricia Moran

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781474402194

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474402194.001.0001

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‘From Black to Red’: Jean Rhys’s Use of Dress in Wide Sargasso Sea

‘From Black to Red’: Jean Rhys’s Use of Dress in Wide Sargasso Sea

(p.123) Chapter 6 ‘From Black to Red’: Jean Rhys’s Use of Dress in Wide Sargasso Sea
Jean Rhys

Maroula Joannou

Edinburgh University Press

This essay discusses the cultural work performed by dress in Wide Sargasso Sea which is largely to situate the white creole woman within European racial hierarchies. Drawing on both fashion theory (Alison Bancroft’s work on Fashion and Psychoanalysis [2012]) and postcolonial theorists (Mary Lou Emery and others), I show how Rhys retains and develops her earlier interest in clothing as an indicator of women’s subjectivity, visceral longings, day dreams and fantasies, and how dress articulates the protagonist Antoinette’s contradictory desires. Furthermore, dress carries the freight of Rhys’s concern with racial hierarchy, with the relationship between the colonizer and colonized, and is accentuated as a marker of Caribbean identity. The chapter focuses on the importance of Antoinette’s red dress which is used to interrogate and refuse English cultural norms.

Keywords:   Jean Rhys, fashion, dress, sartorial

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