'Parler de soi': Jean Rhys and the uses of life writing

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Abstract

Controversy over the extent to which Rhys used autobiographical material in her writing has been one of the most recurrent issues in her reception. This essay approaches Rhys less as a case study in such debates and more as a vital contributor: it explores the perspectives Rhys herself opens up on the uses of life writing, auto/biography and the auto/biographical, drawing attention to the critically underemphasized role played in this by her transnational engagement with French literary culture (such as the writings of Flaubert, Anatole France, Proust). Focusing on Good Morning, Midnight, the essay responds to the novel’s formal innovations in the art of fictional memoir, its deployment of forms of life writing – biographies, letters – as dramatically revealing devices, and its subversion of the form of the auto/biographical Künstlerroman, as marks of the scope and acuity of Rhys’s critical and creative inquiry into the uses of life writing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransnational Jean Rhys
Subtitle of host publicationLines of Transmission, Lines of Flight
EditorsJuliana Lopoukhine, Frédéric Regard, Kerry-Jane Wallart
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Chapter4
Pages65-80
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781501361302, 9781501361319
ISBN (Print)9781501361296
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2020

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