“Fighting Mad to Tell Her Story”: Madness, Rage, and Literary Self-Making in Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid

  • Denise deCaires Narain
Part of the New Caribbean Studies book series (NCARS)


In this chapter, deCaires Narain examines the complex and ambiguous ways that Jean Rhys and Jamaica Kincaid mobilize a variety of meanings and registers of “mad” and “madness” in their texts, including alienation, terror, anguish, and anger. She argues that a comparative reading of Rhys and Kincaid, attentive to the explicit and implied autobiographical traces in their work, suggests more complicated possibilities than the familiar alignment of Rhys with alienation and Kincaid with anger. In both writers, the autobiographical features less as a desire for “self-expression” than as a painstaking commitment to writing as a space for exploring the very possibility of selfhood. As such, their works resonate strongly with Frantz Fanon’s and Judith Butler’s commitments to a relational conception of selfhood.

Works Cited

  1. Allfrey, Phyllis Shand. The Orchid House. 1953. London: Virago, 1982. Print.Google Scholar
  2. Brathwaite, Edward Kamau. Roots. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1993. Print.Google Scholar
  3. Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985. Print.Google Scholar
  4. Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. 2004. London: Verso, 2006. Print.Google Scholar
  5. ———. Senses of the Subject. New York: Fordham UP, 2015. Print.Google Scholar
  6. Collins English Dictionary. Glasgow: Collins, 1979. Print.Google Scholar
  7. Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. 1967. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. London: Pluto, 1986. Print. Trans. of Peau noire, masques blancs. Paris: Seuil, 1952. Print.Google Scholar
  8. ———. A Dying Colonialism. 1965. Trans. Haakon Chevalier. New York: Grove Atlantic, 1994. Print. Trans. of L’An V de la revolution algérienne. Paris: Maspéro, 1959. Print.Google Scholar
  9. ———. The Wretched of the Earth. 1965. Trans. Constance Farrington. Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1983. Print. Trans. of Les Damnés de la terre. Paris: Maspéro, 1961. Print.Google Scholar
  10. Felman, Shoshana. Writing and Madness. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2003. Print.Google Scholar
  11. Garner, Dwight. “The Marriage Has Ended; Revenge Begins.” New York Times 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.Google Scholar
  12. Gezari, Janet. “Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic.” Essays in Criticism 56.3 (2006): 264–79. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. Print.Google Scholar
  14. James, Marlon. “Worthless Women: Marlon James on Jean Rhys and Her Female Characters.” Caribbean Review of Books. Aug. 2007. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.Google Scholar
  15. Josephs, Kelly Baker. Disturbers of the Peace: Representations of Madness in Anglophone Caribbean Literature. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2013. Print.Google Scholar
  16. Kincaid, Jamaica. The Autobiography of My Mother. London: Vintage, 1996. Print.Google Scholar
  17. ———. “Does Truth Have a Tone?” Interview by Lauren K. Alleyne. Guernica. 17 June 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.Google Scholar
  18. ———. “I Use a Cut and Slash Policy of Writing: Jamaica Kincaid Talks to Gerhard Dilger.” Wasafiri 8.16 (1992): 21–25. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. ———. Lucy. New York: Farrar, 1990. Print.Google Scholar
  20. ———. My Brother. London: Vintage, 1998. Print.Google Scholar
  21. ———. My Garden (Book). London: Vintage, 2000. Print.Google Scholar
  22. ———. “Never Mind the Parallels, Don’t Read It as My Life.” Interview by Felicia R. Lee. New York Times 4 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.Google Scholar
  23. ———. “On Seeing England for the First Time.” Transition 51 (1991): 32–40. Print.Google Scholar
  24. ———. See Now Then. New York: Farrar, 2013. Print.Google Scholar
  25. ———. A Small Place. London: Virago, 1988. Print.Google Scholar
  26. ———. “Through West Indian Eyes.” Interview by Leslie Garis. New York Times Magazine. 19 Aug. 1990. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.Google Scholar
  27. ———. “What a Lot of Memory.” Interview by Moira Ferguson. Kenyon Review 16.1 (1994): 163–88. Print.Google Scholar
  28. Macey, David. Frantz Fanon: A Biography. London: Verso, 2012. Print.Google Scholar
  29. ———. Frantz Fanon: A Life. London: Granta, 2000. Print.Google Scholar
  30. McDowell, Lesley. “Jean Rhys: Prostitution, Alcoholism and the Mad Woman in the Attic.” Independent 2 May 2009. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.Google Scholar
  31. O’Callaghan, Evelyn. Woman Version: Theoretical Approaches to West Indian Fiction by Women. London: Macmillan, 1993. Print.Google Scholar
  32. Ramchand, Kenneth. The West Indian Novel and Its Background. London: Faber, 1974. Print.Google Scholar
  33. Rhys, Jean. After Leaving Mr Mackenzie. 1930. London: Penguin, 2000. Print.Google Scholar
  34. ———. “The Day They Burned the Books.” Tigers Are Better Looking. 1968. By Rhys. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987. 37–43. Print.Google Scholar
  35. ———. Good Morning, Midnight. 1939. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967. Print.Google Scholar
  36. ———. Jean Rhys Letters 1931–1966. Ed. Francis Wyndham and Diana Melly. London: Penguin, 1984. Print.Google Scholar
  37. ———. Smile Please: An Unfinished Biography. 1979. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. Print.Google Scholar
  38. ———. Voyage in the Dark. 1934. London: Penguin, 1967. Print.Google Scholar
  39. ———. Wide Sargasso Sea. London: Deutsch, 1966. Print.Google Scholar
  40. Simmons, Diane. “Jamaica Kincaid and the Canon: In Dialogue with Paradise Lost and Jane Eyre.Melus 23.2 (1998): 65–85. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism.” Critical Inquiry 12.1 (1985): 243–61. Print.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Thieme, John. “Becoming a Madman, Becoming a Madwoman: Ex-centricity in Caribbean Writing.” Ex-centric Writing: Essays on Madness in Postcolonial Fiction. Ed. Susanna Zinato and Annalisa Pes. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2013. 95–118. Print.Google Scholar
  43. Walcott, Derek. “Isla Incognita.” Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture. Ed. Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey, Renée K. Gosson, and George B. Handley. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2005. 51–57. Print.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denise deCaires Narain
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SussexBrightonUK

Personalised recommendations