Untimely Returns: Shoring Fragments Against Ruins in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca

  • Sheila Teahan


This essay examines the problematics of the fragmentary, the ruined and the untimely in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Gaston Bachelard argues that a “creature that hides and ‘withdraws into its shell’ is preparing an escape.” Such escapes, which “take place in cases of repressed being,” manifest a “postponed aggressiveness, aggressiveness that bides its time”—a dynamic dramatized by Rebecca’s spectacular return. The narrator’s namelessness reflects her belated and fragmentary ontological status as dramatized by her fruitless attempts to erase Rebecca’s presence from Manderley. The tropes of fragmentation and of the return of the repressed are encapsulated by the narrator’s figure of the “funny fragment of time.” Manderley materializes the novel’s tropology of the ruined and the fragmentary.


  1. Abraham, Nicholas. 1994. Notes on the Phantom: A Complement to Freud’s Metapsychology. In The Shell and the Kernel: Renewals of Psychoanalysis, by Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok, 171–176. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bachelard, Gaston. 1994. The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  3. Chopin, Kate. 2016. The Story of an Hour. In The Norton Introduction to Literature, 12th ed., ed. Kelly Mays, 671–672. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  4. Copjec, Joan. 2015. Read My Desire: Lacan Against the Historicists. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  5. du Maurier, Daphne. 2006. Rebecca. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  6. Eliot, T.S. 1934. Selected Poems. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.Google Scholar
  7. Hovey, Jaime. 2001. In Rebecca’s Shoes. In Footnotes: On Shoes, ed. Shari Benstock and Suzanne Ferris, 156–176. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Jagose, Annamarie. 1998. First Wife, Second Wife: Sexual Perversion and the Problem of Precedence in Rebecca. Intimacy 24 (2): 352–377.Google Scholar
  9. Lanham, Richard A. 1991. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  10. Light, Alison. 1984. “Returning to Manderley”: Romance Fiction, Female Sexuality and Class. Feminist Review 16: 7–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Linkin, Harriet. 2016. The Deceptively Strategic Narrator of Rebecca. Journal of Narrative Theory 46 (2): 223–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Parker, Partricia. 1987. Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric, Gender, Property. London and New York: Methuen.Google Scholar
  13. Smith, Allan Lloyd. 1992. The Phantoms of Drood and Manderley: The Uncanny Reencountered Through Abraham and Torok’s “Cryptonomy.” Poetics Today 13 (2): 285–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheila Teahan
    • 1
  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations