What is the course about?
"Everything must be for the 'reactionary 19th century romance,' " Rhys angrily wrote a friend. "That unfortunate death
of a Creole! I'm fighting mad to write her story" (Rhys, Jean Letters 1931-66, 157)
Although this work was conceived in the shadow of Jane Eyre, the scope of Rhys’ vision would be limited by simply
seeing the work as a feminist response to Bronte’s iconic novel. Rhys brings to the surface the voice and agonies
of the Madwoman in the Attic, considering how she may have arrived in that debilitated state and addresses the
mysterious character of Edward Rochester as well as the complex, liminal Creole world that creates her. You do not
need to have read Jane Eyre to find this work (and our study of it) fulfilling but if you have not, there are many film
versions that would fill in that background story.
This course will develop ideas and understanding about post-colonial theories and lived experiences. Using close
consideration of the literature, we will study how these Jean Rhys uses the intimate realm of her characters to play
out the engagement and oppression of imperial forces—even as these forces seem out-dated and exhausted. We
will also consider how the characters push against forces of control to claim their unique identity and attempts to
create a world that honours diversity of culture, character and perspective.
What will we cover?
Post-colonial theory, Creole culture, Caribbean history, madness as gendered, female struggle for voice, History &
the impact of constructed histories on identity.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
Define Post-colonialism as applied to literature.
Discuss the way varying perspectives build towards a more interesting and authentic historical truth.
Offer ideas on the intersection between intimate and personal systems of power and large –scale (cultural, societal)
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This course is geared for both the first time and repeating reader.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course will include tutor input, large and small group discussions, dramatic readings, and sharing of creative
responses. The work outside of the class includes significant preparatory reading and optional reading of critical
and contextual sources.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Wide Sargasso Sea (Annotated Edition) by Jean Rhys (Penguin Modern Classics ISBN-13: 978-0141182858.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please see the Literature courses in the prospectus or on the website under History Culture and Writing.