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Marianne Fish

Linguistics, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Suffering and Narrative Consciousness in Jean Rhys: A Stylistic Exploration of the Postcolonial Experience

Fictional narratives offer a rare opportunity to witness mental pain. Jean Rhys’s writing is characterised by themes of suffering (Maslen 2009) and notable for focusing on ‘the way the world is experienced by the self through consciousness’ (Earnshaw 2018). Rhys’s ethnic identity and cultural experiences feature prominently in her work—alienation, oppression, and exploitation dominate her writing (Lopoukhine et al. 2020). Rhys’s distinctive style of expressing mental pain offers invaluable insight into her particular brand of suffering—suffering rooted in postcolonial experience and stemming from her liminal racialisation and gender position. Her work, therefore, provides a unique opportunity to examine the contribution of colonialism to individuals’ suffering. By employing postcolonial theory alongside stylistic analysis to study the articulation of pain, my research will expand the understanding of colonial experiences of trauma, which have otherwise been ‘routinely ignored or dismissed’ in literary scholarship (Craps and Buelens 2008). 

Recent scholarship on fictional consciousness has precisely delineated the stylistic modes of representation that express levels of consciousness, including reflective thought and perception (Sotirova 2013; Rundquist 2014). However, there is currently no research discussing how mental pain is articulated through the techniques of consciousness representation. As Lodge (2002) suggests, literary fiction is, perhaps, the most comprehensive ‘record of human consciousness’ available for examination, yet health communication has largely neglected this record in the study of pain. Rhys’s unique model of consciousness interweaves various modes of narrative technique, such as first-person interior monologue, stream of consciousness, and dialogicity—making her work a rich and complex example of the articulation of pain hitherto unexplored stylistically. This project will, therefore, contribute valuable insight into how suffering is processed by the mind, how it distorts perceptions, and the various levels of consciousness in which it takes place.

This project will be the first stylistic analysis of postcolonial trauma—as expressed through Rhys’s consciousness representation. Studying Rhys’s work and bringing together these two disciplines offers the opportunity to understand postcolonial suffering and ‘future possibilities for dealing with, resisting and representing’ it (Ward 2015).

Research Area

  • Linguistics

Other Research Interests

  • Literary Linguistics
  • Stylistics
  • English Language and Literature
  • Cognitive Poetics
  • Narratology
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Postcolonial studies