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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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‘Upholstered Ghosts’: Jean Rhys’s Posthuman Imaginary

‘Upholstered Ghosts’: Jean Rhys’s Posthuman Imaginary

(p.209) Chapter 10 ‘Upholstered Ghosts’: Jean Rhys’s Posthuman Imaginary
Jean Rhys

Erica L. Johnson

Edinburgh University Press

Each of Jean Rhys’s novels written during the modernist period presents a world in which her female protagonists are besieged by poverty, exile, loneliness, and abasement at the hands of men and women who consistently treat them with contempt. In the face of such antipathy, Rhys’s heroines demonstrate a pronounced identification with inanimate objects, ghosts, and animals, as though to escape or at least extend their subjectivities beyond the limits of their own imperilled bodies. This outsourcing of identity to machines, mirrors, mannequins, dolls, kittens, zombies, and so forth, may be in part a defence mechanism against the oppressive conditions under which they live, but one effect of Rhys’s portraiture is that she pushes the boundaries of the body and of the subject in directions only recently explored by theories of the posthuman. This chapter examines the enmeshment of Rhys’s protagonists with material and spectral elements in order to understand her distinct representation of the affective flows of modern subjectivity.

Keywords:   Jean Rhys, posthuman, affect theory, modernism, indifference

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