Rhys, Kincaid, and the Myth of Insular Sovereignty
This chapter considers fictional representations of the scale of the island, in particular the islands of the Caribbean treated in Jean Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso Sea and Jamaica Kincaid's essay A Small Place. The titles of each text suggest an ironic ambivalence about the national aspirations of the island realms of Jamaica, Dominica, and Antigua. Rhys' narrative, which exists within the unspoken gaps of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, creates gaps of its own, particularly the geographical gap between England and the Caribbean, represented by the Sargasso Sea, or North Atlantic. By structuring her novel around negative geographical space, Rhys highlights the inadequacy of a worldview that sees oceans as empty extensions of imperial territory. While likewise arguing for the centrality of oceanic space, Kincaid ironically rewrites spatial history so that the “small place” of Antigua becomes a territory written over and over again by intrusions from across the sea. Her account of Antigua suggests a view of the ocean-island relationship as a fundamental metageography that links colonial with neocolonial histories.
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