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West Indian intellectual

Samuel Beckett, it is said, when asked in Paris on one occasion if he were English, replied unequivocally, ‘ au contraire ’. Jean Rhys might have said much the same. If she was sure about her identity in any way, it was in her certainty that she was not English – ‘pseudo-English’ at the most, as she puts in her memoir, Smile Please . 1 But what was she? In what sense

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
Editor: Bill Schwarz

Caribbean migration to Britain brought many new things—new music, new foods, new styles. It brought new ways of thinking too. This book explores the intellectual ideas that the West Indians brought with them to Britain. It shows that, for more than a century, West Indians living in Britain developed a dazzling intellectual critique of the codes of Imperial Britain. Chapters discuss the influence of, amongst others, C. L. R. James, Una Marson, George Lamming, Jean Rhys, Claude McKay and V. S. Naipaul. The contributors draw from many different disciplines to bring alive the thought and personalities of the figures they discuss, providing a picture of intellectual developments in Britain from which we can still learn much. The introduction argues that the recovery of this Caribbean past, on the home territory of Britain itself, reveals much about the prospects of multiracial Britain.

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Crossing the seas

peers. Third, we need to reflect on the particular forms of knowledge which were produced. Here, as an example, we can turn to Jean Rhys. 64 Rhys does not sit comfortably in any given political tradition nor – given the fact that she was white – is she easily accommodated into any larger Caribbean collective. The degree to which her work can claim any West Indian

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
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represented as a sign of maturity. Naipaul tends to praise in West Indian novels what confirms his world-view and to interpret them through it. For instance, his assessment of Jean Rhys in 1971, important for placing her as West Indian, emphasises the senses of exile and the psychological shipwreck of ‘dependence and defeat’, the ‘woman’s half-world’ of her protagonists. He commends Rhys for being ‘above

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
Critique and utopia in Benita Parry’s thought

thinking of Parry’s account of Jean Rhys’s novel Wide Sargasso Sea, in particular, her persuasive analysis of the black character Christophine as ‘the possessor and practitioner of an alternative tradition challenging imperialism’s authorized system of knowledge’ (p. 39). In ascribing radical agency to Christophine, Benita Parry also ascribes radical agency to her author. Parry is suggesting, in other words, that texts produced by non-black writers such as Rhys can respectfully represent ‘alterity’, and can recognise racially disenfranchised populations as the creators

in Postcolonial contraventions
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The predicament of history

incorporate the formerly-enslaved and colonised. There were many strands to this intellectual movement, which shouldn’t be conflated. For our purposes, though, we might point to the personal and intellectual connections established between the West Indian migrants in Britain and, to put this loosely, non-British cultures of thought. The controversial estimations of Jean Rhys’s commitments to a heterodox

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain
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1920s, including James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Jean Rhys and Ernest Hemingway (Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, Vol. 1, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. v). Hereafter cited as Saunders I (or, for volume 2, Saunders II). 2395 intro 7/5/02 14 8:41 am Page 14 Fragmenting modernism 5 My subject here is Ford, and these dates provide parameters for his works that I discuss. I don’t accept, in general, the idea of a time-bound period of modernism. Some critics do, however, often citing 1908–22 as the critical period (though dates are always a matter for debate

in Fragmenting modernism
De-scribing Imperial identity from alien to migrant

3 ‘Where do you belong?’: De-scribing Imperial identity from alien to migrant PETER CHILDS Introduction: writing the post-colonial nation ‘England,’ said Christophine who was watching me, ‘you think there is such a place?’ … ‘You do not believe there is a country called England?’ She blinked and answered quickly, ‘I don’t know, I know what I see with my eyes and I never see it.’ (Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, 1996, 92) Understanding the novel as a formative influence on the imagining of national collectivity, Timothy Brennan argues that ‘it is especially in

in Across the margins
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Jane Eyre in Elizabeth Stoddard’s New England

nature, apparently inherited from her wanton (and foreign) mother, is the cause of her lunacy. Jean Rhys, of course, in her novel, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), offered a reworking of these themes in a powerful vindication of Brontë’s fictional character. 48 Anne-Marie Ford Stoddard’s trapped females also suffer mentally, though perhaps less dramatically than Brontë’s, reflecting more prosaically the anxieties, frustrations and limitations of being female. Her heroine’s sister, Veronica, is a frail, nervous creature whose fear of her own sexuality limits her ability to

in Special relationships

was a personal refusal to be part of a Caribbean ‘movement’, rather than Indian ethnicity, that kept V. S. Naipaul and Sam Selvon out of CAM. Similarly those representing the light-skinned Caribbean creoles, including John Hearne, 51 and – as is discussed elsewhere in this volume, Jean Rhys 52 – tended to be excluded. The earlier CAM discussions reflected a male dominance until in 1970 Merle Hodge

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain