Abject by Gender and Race: The Loss of Antoinette’s Identity in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea

Iida Pollanen


Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) is a postcolonial novel that gives a voice to Antoinette, the Creole woman described as the “mad woman in the attic” in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847). Wide Sargasso Sea has been widely discussed by critics, especially in the fields of postcolonial, feminist and modernist literary theory, but while many critics have focused on how it rewrites race and gender as expressed in Jane Eyre, this work highlights the novel as an independent entity and introduces the notion of abjection to analyze Antoinette’s identity crisis. Thus, by examining the connections between race and gender in Rhys’ novel in the light of Ania Loomba’s ideas about colonialism and postcolonialism and linking it to psychoanalytic feminism with Julia Kristeva’s notion of the abject, it is possible to understand why Antoinette loses her identity and how madness actually operates in a colonial and patriarchal society. Race and gender are used to provide metaphors for one another and to abject ‘the other’ among us, driving it to insanity.


Wide Sargasso Sea; Jean Rhys; Abject; Gender; Race; Madness; Postcolonialism; Julia Kristeva; Ania Loomba

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5399/uo/ourj.2.1.1891


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