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Ruptures of Poetic Language - Applying Kristevan theory to Jean Rhys's "Voyage in the Dark"

By Annica Lindberg


This essay will be concerned with the fiction of Jean Rhys, focusing, in particular, on her novel Voyage in the Dark, first published in 1934. Rhys's work has in the past sometimes been disregarded as sentimental and purely autobiographical; as pathetic, “sordid” stories about women-in-love. The purpose of this essay will be to examine, and dismiss, some of these claims of sentimentality, and instead highlight Rhys's technical skill and talent as an author. In order to do so, I will use the theory of Julia Kristeva; in particular her theories about the acquisition of language, i.e. her feminist elaboration of Jacques Lacan's mirror theory. With the help of Kristeva, I will argue that Rhys creates a realm of feminine subjectivity for her heroines, which is, at least to some extent, free from patriarchal oppression. This is manifested in Voyage in the Dark in the way that Rhys endows the protagonist, Anna, with a private, written (i.e., not outspoken), extradiegetic narrative: a subtext in which Anna is allowed to express herself outside the patriarchal register

Topics: Voyage in the Dark, Kristevan theory, Jean Rhys, poetic language, ruptures
Year: 2012
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