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Abstract

This essay seeks to challenge critical analyses that view Jean Rhys’s early fiction as unrelentingly bleak and melancholic. I propose that in After Leaving Mr Mackenzie and Good Morning, Midnight, Rhys – often through her own distinctive brand of dry humour – experimentally dissolves the boundaries between comedy and tragedy, destabilising the social and cultural stereotypes of the funny man and the humourless, inadvertently comic woman. The image of the humourless woman writer in particular, I go on to suggest, is fundamentally undermined in these texts: I argue that Rhys’s unsettling tragicomedy subtly implicates the reader in the “comic” moment, drawing attention to the fictionality of her narratives and foregrounding the wry joke inherent in Modernist art.

Note on the Author

Laura Wainwright is now in her third year of doctoral research at Cardiff, looking at Welsh literature in English (1930-1949) in the context of European Modernisms.

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