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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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The Empire of Affect: Reading Rhys after Postcolonial Theory

The Empire of Affect: Reading Rhys after Postcolonial Theory

(p.171) Chapter 8 The Empire of Affect: Reading Rhys after Postcolonial Theory
Jean Rhys

John J. Su

Edinburgh University Press

This essay contributes to developing 21st-century readings of Rhys by exploring her work in relation to more recent theories of affect, particularly those associated with Brian Massumi. Massumi's work, including his influential concept of “the autonomy of affect,” is particularly intriguing in this regard because of its potential implications for postcolonial studies. Just as postcolonial studies has in the past decade sought to move beyond the center-periphery model that has dominated the discipline since its inception, readings of Rhys invite scholars to move beyond the focus on the purported (or failed) critique of Empire that has defined postcolonial Rhys scholarship. This chapter reads the two narrators of Wide Sargasso Sea, both of whom focus heavily on how their position within the British Empire is experienced on the level of emotions and affect. Rhys challenges the rigid distinctions between emotion and affect that underlie Massumi's theories, suggesting a more complex interplay between non-cognitive experiences and ideology.

Keywords:   Jean Rhys, affect theory, Brian Massumi, postcolonial, emotion

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