Fighting Fire with Fire: Examining the Decolonial Feminist Politics of Captivity and Resistance in Wide Sargasso Sea

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Authors
Williams, Nicole
Advisor
Gupta, Soumitree
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Date of Issue
2023-04-28
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Title
Fighting Fire with Fire: Examining the Decolonial Feminist Politics of Captivity and Resistance in Wide Sargasso Sea
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Presentation
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Abstract
I examine Jean Rhys’ novel Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) to argue that a literary work cannot be considered “resistance literature” (Barbara Harlow) if it does not critique the larger forces of racism and patriarchy that support the colonial structure. Simply setting a literary work within the context of colonialism, even criticizing the colonial structure, does not necessarily make it a decolonial project. While Rhys writes a novel that takes place in colonial Caribbean society, it only becomes resistance literature when she delves into the implications of the colonial system for the lives of the characters, and their resistance towards it. The two major female characters in the novel, Christophine and Antoinette, exist within a system that seeks to bind them, and it is through Rhys’s depiction of their struggles that we see her novel transform into a critique of the colonial structure. I examine the ways that Antoinette plays into her own captivity, and the means by which she eventually frees herself of it, as well as the ways that Christophine exemplifies her own form of individual freedom despite her status as a former slave.
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Spring
Department
English