• The Narrative Mood of Jean Rhys' Quartet

    Octavio Gonzalez (see profile)
    CLCS 20th- and 21st-Century, GS Prose Fiction, LLC 20th- and 21st-Century English and Anglophone, Postcolonial Literature, TC Psychology, Psychoanalysis, and Literature
    Jean Rhys, Anglo-American modernism, Psychoanalytic criticism, Affect, Narratology, Modernism, Postcolonial literature, Narrative theory, Theories of affect
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    Abstract: This article evaluates the application of dominant institutional discourses, such as psychoanalysis, in the interpretation of literary fiction. I take up the case of Jean Rhys and her 1929 novel _Quartet_. Both author and novel have been analyzed through the concept of masochism, as creating masochistic characters or a masochistic aesthetic. But what do we mean when we classify or “diagnose” authors of literature or fictional characters as in the case of Rhys’ and _Quartet’s_ protagonist? Against this mode of reading, I argue that Rhys’ novel asks us, in various ways, to understand it on its own terms, suggesting a mode that I call _immanent reading_. It enjoins the reader to understand rather than to classify the famously problematic Rhys “heroine.” Ultimately, _Quartet_ foregrounds the instability of moral and social positions, implicitly arguing against what it calls the “mania for classification” employed by the novel’s antagonists. _Quartet_ cautions against diagnostic interpretations by dramatizing scenes of hypothetical focalization, emphasizing the modal nature of reality, and providing the novel with its characteristically shadowy mood. _Mood_ is a term drawn from Gérard Genette, which describes how certain narrative choices and devices (or _mode_) compose a discursive narrative atmosphere (or _mood_). is project suggests the untapped potential of narratology for analyzing affect in fictional narrative.
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    4 years ago
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