Going Nowhere, Being No One: Navigating Space and Identity in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea

Abstract

Identity has arguably been the most prominent theme in the works of postcolonial theorists and has been approached from various viewpoints that generally fall into two groups: a melancholic idiom of ‘in-betweenness’ or a celebratory focus on hybridity and multiculturalism. These conceptions of identity implicitly rely on notions of (cultural) space as largely homogenous and demarcated by boundaries, which can either (I) exclude, resulting in artificial, essentialised identities and in-between non-identities, or (II) include, enabling connections that can result in multicultural assemblages. As such, they seem to reflect what Marie-Laure Ryan, Kenneth Foote and Maoz Azaryahu in their work Narrating Space/Spatializing Narrative (2016) have called the two principal ways for conceptualising space: space as container and space as network. For writer and theorist Stephen Clingman, however, these abstractions fail to reflect the complexity of reality in which spaces, and by extension identities, are culturally entangled rather than determined by a single culture or a composite of cultures. Consequently, he seeks to transcend these categories by emphasising identity as a transcultural process of linguistic and physical navigation; an idea he maps out in his revolutionary work The Grammar of Identity (2009) aided by an analysis of several novels, including Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966).

How to Cite

van Straten, L., (2024) “Going Nowhere, Being No One: Navigating Space and Identity in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea”, Moveable Type 15(1), 47-55. doi: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.1755-4527.1773

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Lisa van Straten

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