Revisiting the imperial archive: Jane Eyre, wide sargasso sea, and the decomposition of Englishness.Revisting the Imperial Archive: Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea and the Decomposition of Englishness
Returning to the much-noted relationship between Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, and noting the central role of architectural structures in both texts, this essay analyses the ways in which the later novel 'revisits' and 'reinhabits' its forerunner. It is argued that the symbolic architecture described by the texts is inseparable from the discursive practices of the 'imperial archive.' Following Derrida's analysis, however, 'archive' names not a consolidated synchronic signifying order but a series of 'consignations' which remain temporally unintegrated. Indeed, the archive works against its own principle of order in ways which are acted out by the structural 'decomposition' (and 'self-immolation') of Bronte's text, and further exacerbated by Rhys's revisiting of it. If Bronte's text performs the vicissitudes of the imperial (and patriarchal) archive, Rhys's offers an allegory of a postcolonial revisitation haunted by its own ambivalent relationship to the literary archives of empire.
While the relationship between Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, published in 1847, and Jean Rhys's 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea has already been much discussed by critics, the point of this essay is to return once again to the site of this textual encounter and revisit the two novels in order to address the question of their relationship precisely in terms of revisitation. (1) Specifically, the argument made here is that Rhys's subversive return to Jam Eyre and to the earlier novel's central gothic edifice, Thornfield Hall, is a revisitation of novelistic discourse as an instance of colonial discourse and of a particular discursive structure which I shall call the 'imperial archive.' The way in which the later text variously reevokes, reinhabits, but also displaces and threatens to destroy the architectural structure at the heart of its predecessor will be understood as part of the process whereby it 'decomposes' Jane Eyre as a textual structure, an argument that depends upon the sense in which, in the earlier novel, architectural and textual structures are already, as so often in gothic literature, elaborately intertwined. The notion of the archive emerges at the point where textual and architectural structures frame and inhabit each other. Furthermore, I will speculatively propose that this particular instance of textual revisitation might be read to some degree as paradigmatic of the encounter between two inextricably intertwined discursive structures or, as I shall be arguing, between two archives--namely the imperial and the postcolonial.
The notion of the imperial archive necessarily evokes the concept developed by Thomas Richards in his The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Umpire (1993), and I share Richards's concern to place the specifically literary productions of empire within a larger discursive economy. Richards's approach, however, appears surprisingly to owe more to the disciplinary model of knowledge/power found in Michel Foucault's later texts than it does to the Archeology of Knowledge (2002), a work that bears a stronger kinship to the primarily Derridean notion of archive that I attempt to articulate here. It is specifically the manner in which archive works against the ideal of a singular and integrated structure, and the ways in which the archive, while appearing to coordinate a regularity of signifying practices into a unified corpus, also and in principle subverts its own ideal unity that, drawing on the work of Jacques Derrida, I want to emphasize here. I argue that it is precisely this model that offers an understanding of the way in which a later literary text, Wide Sargasso Sea, revisits and reinhabits the architecture of an earlier text, Jane Eyre, so as to emphasize its internal heterogeneity; a process that I term 'decomposition'
It is clearly not insignificant that many gothic texts are named after the shadowy edifice that not only dominates their setting but is also at the heart of their symbolic concerns: The Castle of Otranto, Castle Rackrent, and Northanger Abbey offer just three early examples of such ambiguous naming. In the last of these, Jane Austen exploits to comic effect the parallels between her protagonist's supposed entrapment within the confines of the house and the manner in which she is actually the captive of a structure of fantasy, the prisoner of an edifice entirely literary, and the victim of her own reading habits. The induction of the reader into the gothic edifice is often double: both an ushering into that house, castle, or abbey that is its central topos, and an initiation into a structure of knowledge or fantasy, characterized typically by paranoia. If the architectural serves within the terms of the gothic text as the material projection of this epistemological structure, the projection may offer an uncannily self-conscious perspective on the construction and organization of fantasy. This is in turn connected with the fact that the protagonists of gothic texts are so often themselves also readers. We might go so far as to say that, among other things, gothic structures typically offer an allegory of reading. Jam Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea are replete with scenes of reading, scenes that often foreground the architectural. staging of encounters with texts, as readers in the novels retreat, for example, to libraries and window nooks: spaces marked off, set aside, and framed by a mode of architectural organization that I shall relate to the notion of the archive. If both of these texts at one level portray the reader securely caught and housed within the structures of imperial fantasy, the particular question posed here is to what extent Wide Sargasso Sea offers an allegory of postcolonial rereading in its particular mode of revisiting and reinhabiting an earlier literary and discursive structure.
Neither Jane Eyre nor Wide Sargasso Sea, of course, is named after its central architectural structure, although Thornfield Hall emerges as the privileged edifice in the textual encounter between the novels. It is key to my argument about the ambivalence of both novels towards the structures that they simultaneously inhabit and produce that there is no single building that monopolizes either narrative structure, and that notoriously these are texts about displacement as much as inhabitation. If Wide Sargasso Sea in some ways violently decomposes the topographic and textual structures of Jane Eyre through various modes of geopolitical dispersal and displacement, this is in itself a reinhabiting of the modes of displacement internal to the workings of structure in Jane Eyre. The triumphant conflagration of Thornfield Hall in Wide Sargasso Sea may at one level mark a vengeful attack upon the earlier textual structure, and yet it clearly remains faithful to a mode of destruction (and indeed auto-destruction) initiated by Jane Eyre itself. If the burned ruins of Thornfield Hall emblematize a destruction, the undoing of an edifice, that decomposition turns out not simply to be anarchically anti-structural, but provides the very principle of the structural relationship between the two texts, as a destruction or deconstruction inseparable from repetition, and thus a revisiting and a reconstruction.
The identification between textual and architectural structure in Jane Eyre begins as early as the famous opening chapter, which explores the orphaned Jane's ambiguous relationship to the house (Gateshead) and household of her cousins and her aunt, Mrs. Reed. At the opening of the novel Jane--unable to take a walk outside because of the cold and snow, but also excluded from the familial huddle around the warm fire of the drawing room inside--sits cross-legged "like a Turk" in the window seat, and in a gesture which ambiguously repeats her simultaneous enclosure and exclusion, draws "nearly close" the red curtain, leaving her in a "double retirement" (Bronte 1994, 9). On the threshold of the novel, then, Jane, this "heterogeneous thing," breaches the first principle of structure, the distinction between the inside and the outside (17).
The identification of the textual and architectural thresholds through the marking (and unsettling) of the boundary that takes place in Jane's drawing of the curtain is further compounded by the fact that Jane has withdrawn a book from the collection contained in a bookcase in the very room to which she has herself withdrawn; taking flight from enclosure, she also seeks refuge from her cold exile in a reading which itself confounds the proprieties of space. As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak puts it, "Jane breaks the rules of the appropriate topography of withdrawal" (1985, 246). Even as she symbolically withdraws from the space of the house, and even as she withdraws a text from that collection, or archive, that is the bookcase, Jane's attempted self-exile is troubled by her entry into the symbolic 'space' of the book that she reads. This book read by Jane the "Turk" is, we are told, Bewick's History of British Birds, and if Jane will repeatedly be identified with avian imagery, it is crucial that through the identification with the bird she is also at one level identified with the nation (Bronte 1994,9). There is a sense, indeed, in which reading here is revealed to be a strategy of identification (and interpellation) in national terms. To enter the text is to enter the fantasy of national belonging at a time of familial ostracism, to deny her heterogeneity in national terms even as she comports herself" like a Turk" perched precariously on the borders of national domestication. The structure of enclosure will be inseparable from the problems of exile, however, since the book that supposedly offers Jane the solace of reading (and a place of identification) as an alternative to the "cold winter wind" (9) and the coldness of exclusion from the familial hearth will also transport Jane (along with its own putatively British avian 'characters') to the "bleak shores of Lapland, Siberia, Spitsbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland..." and plunge her into a "reservoir of frost and snow" (10).The repeated scenes of reading throughout the text, and throughout the various domestic structures in which Jane will subsequently find herself, are thus from the very beginning associated with the irresolvable paradoxes of a simultaneous inclusion and exile, of identification and exclusion within the structures of nationhood. Spivak also makes clear the ways in which, through identification with Jane as a reader, the novel's reader is interpellated, along with Jane, into individualism (1985, 246). The nation, I will argue, becomes inseparable from the problem of textual structures and their ability to interpellate their reader. The problematic and even paradoxical form of this interpellation, however, is once again clearly marked by the fact that it is precisely in the moment of ensconcing herself with the 'British' book that Jane's reading persona is constructed "like a Turk." Jane's literary habits will continue to be emphasized, and the other reading material in the Gateshead chapters ranges evocatively from the (conventionally) feminized topography of domestic enclosure of Pamela to the masculine allegorical trajectory of Gulliver's Travels.2
The notion of archive that I explore below is introduced here in spatial terms, through the identification of textual and architectural structures, and the notion that Gateshead is a house of books and site of reading. Already in the first chapter, however, the archive is also dealt with in terms of what we would have to call a 'political economy': issues of ownership and appropriation are already raised as problems of the archive in this chapter, as we are told that Jane has "possessed herself of [the] volume" (Bronte 1994, 9) that, at the end of the chapter, John Reed (the eldest son) will reclaim as his rightful property. As self-proclaimed owner of the house and its contents, John feels the inappropriateness of Jane's withdrawal of the text from his bookcase, his collection, his archive: "I'll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they are mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years" (12). In a trebly symbolic redeployment of Jane's strategies of readerly withdrawal, he instructs her to move away from both window (means of flight) and mirror (site of imaginary inclusion through identification) before using the book as a projectile weapon against her, seemingly underscoring the failure of her own attempts at discursive appropriation. John's reassertion of the order of readerly property and propriety against the disruptive intervention of this 'heterogeneous' female, however, accompanies the concession that Jane has, indeed, disturbed the order of 'his' archive by rummaging through his bookshelves. I take this disturbing of the archive by its protagonist to be symbolic of the text's ambiguous relationship to a larger textual and discursive order that I shall characterize as both national and imperial, although it is surely immediately apparent that the archive is also, to steal a richly revealing pun from Derrida"patriarchival" (Derrida 1996, 4). This disordering rummaging through the archive in which the text finds itself enclosed and from which, at the same time. it attempts to withdraw, will be further intensified when we consider the ways in which Wide Sargasso Sea will return to the architectural sites of Jane Byre, and to the earlier textual structure, in a demonstration of its own postcolonial ambivalence in relation to the imperial patriarchive.
While it is important to notice the way in which the principle of structure is breached from the very beginning of the text and in the identification of architectural, textual, and national orders of enclosure and heterogeneity, the core of my argument, and arguably the core of the text as archive, lies not in Gateshead but in the description of the third floor of Thornfield Hall offered in chapter eleven. The chapter begins with the narrator drawing the readers attention to the manner in which she "draw[s] up" the curtain, as if this is a new scene in the play (Bronte 1994, 95). And indeed the entire chapcer revisits, if it docs not exactly undo, the strange logic of enclosure and sequestration associated with Janes drawing the curtain "nearly close" in chapter one. Jane's earlier withdrawal is again evoked in two further passages in this chapter before we reach the sanctum of the third floor:
After breakfast, Adele and I withdrew to the library, which room, it appears, Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the schoolroom. Most of the books were locked up behind glass doors; but there was one bookcase left open containing everything that could be needed in the way of elementary works. ... I suppose he had considered char these were all the governess would require for her private perusal. (Bronte 1994, 104)
The library--the architectural/textual archive no less--to which governess and pupil withdraw, repeats the ambiguities of the first threshold, the window, through the figure of the glass doors that both enable withdrawal and hold in reserve. The structural economy of the house and its bookcases is complex for. just as part of the archive is withheld by these glass partitions and part is specifically pedagogically addressed to Jane and her pupil, so too is the house segregated in such a manner that a portion of it has been Set aside (or held in reserve) for its pedagogical workings ("which room ... Mr. Rochester had directed should be used as the schoolroom"). Jane's new withdrawal with her pupil Adele, is another site of induction, associated once again with the reading of books. Even the Governess's putative "private perusal" has already in a sense been staged by the opening of curtains and of glass doors.
On their tour of the house a few paragraphs later, Mrs. Fairfax points out to Jane the "vault'Mike drawing room chat lies through "a wide arch corresponding to the window," which is "hung like it with alyrian-dyed curtain" (105). The curtain, not to mention the paradoxical "correspondence" between the exterior window and the arch that opens onto an interior vault again re-invokes--and here, in a certain sense, at the very topographical core of the text--the problematics of enclosure, exclusion, and interior partition and sequestration that mark the texts own threshold, and the mention of "Turkey carpets" and "ottomans" again recalls Janes own strange heterogeneity in the first chapter of the text (105). Tyrian, of course, is the reddish-purple dye also known as imperial purple. If the whole house is a figure of a national archive, it becomes tempting to suggest that it is one that has its imperial outside or periphery on its inside, and that, indeed, the (interior as much as exterior) thresholds of curtains and windows (as well as their corresponding glass doors and arches) all remark the transection of the nation by its imperial circumference. It is worth noting in this context that the reddish curtains here and in chapter one also echo the scene of Janes imprisonment in (or banishment to) the red room at Gateshead, the chapter in which she is most hyperbolically identified with a "rebel slave" (14).3 Jane herself, that is to say, is simultaneously excluded, marked as outcast, and inducted, sequestered, withheld, and withdrawn by the workings of the archive.
It is when we finally reach the third floor of the house that we have in some sense penetrated the heart of that archive which is both house and text:
[S]ome of the third-storey rooms, though dark and low, were interesting from their air of antiquity. The furniture once appropriated to the lower apartments had from time to time been removed here, as fashions changed: and the imperfect light entering by their narrow casement showed bedsteads of a hundred years old; chests in oak or walnut, looking, with their strange carvings of palm branches and cherubs' heads, like types of the Hebrew ark; rows of venerable chairs, high-backed and narrow; stools still more antiquated, on whose cushioned tops were yet apparent traces of half-effaced embroideries, wrought by fingers that for two generations had been coffin-dust. All these relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine of memory. (Bronte 1994, 106-07)
This shrine, with its oak doors and "wrought English old hangings" portraying "effigies of strange flowers, and stranger birds, and strangest human beings" (107), is, surely, not just ark but archive: a structure of memory, and in particular an archive both national and imperial, despite--or perhaps precisely because of--the manner in which those very English hangings, like Jane's red curtains, draw us on a gradated progression into the uncanny--strange ... stranger ... strangest. The ark, the shrine, or archive, is the coordination of a memorial system and structure, the turning of the heterogeneous signs of the past into a compelling monument of identity, its maintenance and furnishing through a regime of collecting, appropriation, and ordering whereby the great house becomes a version of the national museum.
Let us consider Derrida's description, in Archive Fever (1996), of the ideal order of the archive:
Consignation aims to coordinate a single corpus, in a system or a synchrony in which all the elements articulate the unity of an ideal configuration. In an archive, there should not be any absolute dissociation, any heterogeneity or secret which could, separate secernent or partition, in an absolute manner. (Derrida 1996.3)
Derrida's point here is that the notion of consignation also and in principle (ah initio) breaches the very ideal of order that it sustains: for if consignation designates at one level the gathering of signs whereby order triumphs over contingency, to consign is also simultaneously to put on reserve. In terms of the central themes of Derridas work, writing as a memorial inscription involves setting down on a place, depositing on a material 'substrate.'The ark of preservation is thus simultaneously the place of setting aside, of separation, of sequestration, of putting on reserve and partitioning: the once ' appropriated' historical bric-a-brac of the third floor has now been 'removed', or set aside on the inside; the "archontic" gathering of presence in the archive, as Derrida would have it, is also the place of the withdrawing of being, the place where identity disaggregates or decomposes back into the very heterogeneous signs out of which it is consolidated. The seemingly liminal problems raised by the question of Jane's appropriation into or withdrawal from the margins of the domestic and discursive structure lie in fact at the very heart of the principles of the archive. Within what appears structurally, architecturally, to be the innermost inside, we find the re-inscription of partitions, doors, and curtains. The partition itself in fact becomes the site of the inscription of nation, as the latter appears woven into the very fabric of those accommodating "wrought English old hangings," with their avian as well as human "occupants."
Treating psychoanalysis as a theory of the archive, Derrida specifies that the Freudian description of the psyche in fact limns the topography of the archive:
[T] his model also integrates the necessity, inside the psyche itself, of a certain outside, of certain borders between insides and outsides. And with this domestic outside, that is to say also with the hypothesis of an internal substrate, surface or space without which there is neither consignation, registration, impression nor suppression, censorship, repression, it prepares the idea of a psychic archive distinct from spontaneous memory, of a hyponmesis distinct from mneme and from anamnesis: the institution, in sum, of a prosthesis of the inside. (Derrida 1996, l9)
Thornfield certainly, along with all of die domestic archives of Jam Eyre, is just such an archive, hearing its 'outside',1 its space of withholding and withdrawal, its place of consignation and reserve, on the inside, confounding the very order that it concomitantly describes and contains, wrecking the abode of memory. As Derrida surely would insist, the logical heart of that archive (with its"strange carvings" as well as its bookcases and libraries) is irreducibly taught up in inscription.
As a strategy of national identification, the archive attempts, as Ernest Gellner (1983) might say. to piece together a seamless narrative out of a necessarily heterogeneous congeries of "scraps and patches": "The cultural shreds and patches used by nationalism are often arbitrary historical inventions" he observes, and "[a]ny old shred and patch would have served as well." I lowever, he insists that "in no way does it follow that the principle of nationalism itself as opposed to the avatars it happens to pick up for its incarnations, is itself in the least contingent and accidental" (1983, 56). At one level, Gellner's analysis of the role of writing in the historical articulation of the nation also invokes writing as the paradigm of the archive: "Literacy, the establishment of a reasonably permanent and standardized script, means in effect the possibility of cultural and cognitive storage and centralization' (8; emphasis added). While centralization (or that element of"consignation" that can be identified with "gathering" in Derridean terms) is obviously a key part of the functioning of the archive as I conceive it here, Gellner's characterization of the function of writing seems uncritically to reiterate the archive's own ideal of itself as unified and consolidated. This view is surely connected with a general account of the development of language that is characterized by an almost Rousseauian phonocentrism, according to which the "explicit" and "rule-bound" language of the modern nation is contrasted with the idiom of the "closed local communities of the agrarian or tribal worlds," in which "context, tone, gesture, personality and situation were everything" (33). In Jane Eyre the connections between the archival function of the house, its operation as a museum, and the workings of monumental inscription do at some level work to consolidate fragmentary signs into an account of national identity that appears "permanent and standardized." However, we shall see that the very attention that the text pays to the processes of gathering, stitching, or consignation that consolidate the archive necessarily remarks the vicissitudes of appropriation and segregation that undermine the ideal of the faultlessly integrated structure. The text, or collection of signs conceived as an achieved synchronic order, disaggregates back into a history of contingent acts of collecting, patching, and stitching. As it not only raises the curtain to the third floor in order to reveal the inner workings at the heart of the domestic archive, but also draws our attention precisely to the fabric of those curtains and hangings themselves, the text constantly exposes the material substrate of inscription that undoes the very ideality of the archive that it is supposed to sustain. The putative ideality of national identity is thus decomposed into signs that remark the historical contingency, appropriative force, and epistemological violence of the archive as the product of a political (and specifically imperial) economy. The archive that is the third floor of Thornfield must thus always be both contained and sequestrated, locked away as the collection of invisible--or at least "halfeffaced" (Bronte 1994,106-107)--signs that threaten, if rendered transparently legible or allowed to circulate freely, to subvert the very structure that they are mobilized to secure.The archive, that is, poses a perpetual latent threat to the very order it sustains, and Thornfield, like all of the domestic structures in Jane Eyre, is haunted by the ambivalence towards the archive that marks all gothic texts, and which has often been identified with the freudian 'uncanny'and the 'return of the repressed.'This ambivalence is perhaps made most explicit in that subgenre of the gothic which mobilizes literal museums as the setting of national, imperial, and often explicitly racial nightmares. (4)
This is perhaps the moment to return to the parallels between textual and architectural structures typical of the gothic novel from which this discussion began, The archive for Derrick is crucially both a material place and space, and an economy of the sign. To say that Jane Eyre's architectural structures are, in fact, archival--which is to say that they work against the very notion of structure insofar as it takes as its ideal the gathering of signs into a perfectly synchronic order--is also to say something about the structure of the text, or rather to say something of the texts own impossible, anti-structural architecture. The text is itself, of course, no more nor less than an economy of signs, and vet we shall see how. with its inwardly secreted texts (those letters, for example, that it holds on reserve in its inner spaces), it too is an archive rather than a structure of signs. That is to say its signs can never be gathered into the perfect ideality of a single coordinated order, and thus always more or less tend towards a decomposition which, however, is never fully disconnected from the workings of archival gathering.
At the beginning of the final section of Wide Sargasso Sea, "Mis. Eff" (presumably an avatar of Jam Eyre's Mrs. Fairfield) is said by Grace Poole to "fold a letter away" (Rhys 1982, 177) in a manner which surely emblematizes the way in which these textual structures contain, secrete, and set aside their own signs, consigning them to a kind of interior reserve, what Derrida calls the "domestic outside" (Derrida 1996, 19). Nancy Armstrong's description of Thornfield as a kind of domestic museum is thus extremely insightful, and she is surely right to suggest that "Jane finds the inside of the house to be thoroughly lettered ... colonized by the conduct books as well as by novels like those Austen wrote" (1990, 205). She captures, I believe, the structural problems of the novel much more fully when she argues that "jejach room within Thornfield 1 lall is a familiar site to readers of fiction, and each is a different citation" suggesting a literary and architectural version of Gellner's scraps and patches, than she does when she urges consequently that "all the rooms are brought together into a single house of fiction" (207). It is precisely m its failure to integrate spaces, order "citations" and coordinate memory into a single "house" or structure that the archival architecture of the novel re-inscribes the problems of nation and empire, even as it also attempts in some ways to withdraw from them. This failure confounds Armstrong's attempts to read the domestic novel's construction of a "psychosexuar inferiority as inherently depoliticizing, "detache[d] from any referent in the world" (212)."She [Bronte] deliberately brings alien cultural elements within a domestic framework." argues Armstrong, "and destroys their cultural otherness" (210). If "she" here is the marker of the forces of archival ordering, then this may be partially true, in accordance with the ideal ot a perfect archival "consignation".Yet Armstrong's resistance to psychoanalysis leads her to underestimate the ways in which 'she' (Bronte, or Jane, or Bertha insofar as these all in a sense become names for the agency of the archive) is also impelled by what Derrida calls "archiviolithic" forces, those elements of heterogeneity which are not contingent accidents that belatedly affect a once-pristine order, but which are the necessary consequence and prerequisite of archival conscription (Derrida 1996, 10). The Freudian death drive is, for Derrida, a name for this archiviolithic tendency operating from the very beginning within and against the principle of archival preservation, and I wish to posit that the impossibility at the heart of the textual archive--"The archive always works, and a priori, against itself" (12)--is inseparable from an impasse within the national/imperial archival (as well as patriarchival) order. When Wide Sargasso Sea arrives as a 'supplement' to this textual archive, in a sense it remarks nothing new at all but an originary and entirely structural breakdown (an irreducible heterogeneity) within Jane Eyre 'itself' It adds itself to the text, that is to say, not as a belated sequel; the later text, the kprequel; is, in fact, a prosthesis of the 'inside', and one which makes intensely visible the disjunctures that are the very condition of possibility of the national/imperial patriarchive, those lines of structural (im)possibility that it attempts to consign, banish, and exile to its deepest and most concealed inside. Jane Eyre clearly does, as Armstrong charges, domesticate its signs; and yet by rendering the domestic in archival terms (and, indeed, assuming the form of a domestic archive), it also re-inscribes within its innermost depths the very alterity from which it attempts to "detach" and distance itself. Accordingly, far from simply alienating itself from the constraints of the earlier novels domestic form, Wide Sargasso Sea too re-inhabits this textual domicile in ways that reaffirm its principles of decomposition.
Beyond the emblematic Englishness of oak doors and hangings--noting again the neat coincidence between the nation and the threshold or partition--we might ask what it is that makes the secrets of the third-floor archive natioiniLThc confounding and yet utterly logical answer lies in the secret domiciling of Bertha Mason, Rochester's first, West Indian bride in this outhouse of memory; for at the hidden heart of English identity in the structure of the novel is the heterogeneous sign, the sequestrated memory of imperial origins, the carefully preserved secret that the stately home of England is, as Edward Said (1994) argued in the case of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, built on imperial foundations and an economy of slavery The domestic archive is also an effect of the appropriation, centralization, and capitalization of a dispersed economy of labor and exchange. Its heterogeneity must be effaced so that the supposed legitimacy of class and colonial privilege at the imperial center can be maintained, which can happen only at the expense of the constant repudiation--or "fold[ing] ... away" (Rhys 1982, 177)--of the violences of colonial accumulation.
If Bertha Mason is the necessary reserve that the archive will capitalize into the principle of national identity, she thus becomes the concealed principle of Janes own breached and heterogeneous Englishness, just as the Masons' familial house in Jamaica is the double (or prosthesis) through which the archival principle of Thornfield's secrecy is undone: "[T]hough two rooms off," says Rochester, recounting the process whereby he learns in Jamaica the secret of his first brides madness, "I heard every word--the thin partitions of the West Indian house opposing but slight obstruction to her wolfish cries" (Bronte 1994, 305; emphasis added). Partition, need it be said, is the very principle of the archive, as those West Indian words are consigned to the sequestrated vaults of Thornfield, the domestic-imperial museum. If West Indian walls "leak" (Rhys 1982, 29), and appear to avow what is to remain hermetically concealed behind sturdy English curtains and doors (even, we are supposed to believe, when made of glass),'West Indianness' simply becomes the noisy secret that permeates the imperial archive, like a "clamorous peal that seemed to echo in every lonely chamber, though it originated but in one" (Bronte 1994, 108).
Nor of course is Jane, Rochester's second wife, immune to archival haunting by the first wife, the imperial one, let us say, of whom she is the national double. In the second chapter, when Jane is locked in the famous Red Room at Gateshead, we have been given the necessary clues to conclude, at least in retrospect, that it too is a vault and museum that functions on fully archival principles. With its "tabernacle," it too must house not just the sequestered Jane, who here more than anywhere else represents herself as a "rebel slave" but also the sacred ark of memorial identity (Bronte 1994, 15.14). We are told of ascertain secret drawer in the wardrobe, where were stored divers parchments" (16) that Mrs. Reed occasionally withdraws to review, and it surely becomes impossible not to identify this drawer and the signs it retains with both the "secret inner cabinet" (306) of the third floor of Thornfield and the dressing case from which, when Jane returns to Gateshead, Mrs. Reed instructs her to take out the letter sent from her Untie John in Madeira (236).This letter is the very text that ties the orphaned Jane back to a legitimate identity, a sign withheld by Mrs. Reed which must now be restored, but it is a text which leads infallibly, once again, back to the imperial periphery. John Eyre is the Madeira agent for the Caribbean business of the wealthy Richard Mason. Bertha's brother. The letter announces John's intention to bequeath Jane his accumulated wealth, and when she inherits the legacy that makes it possible to become the second Mrs. Rochester, she too has capitalized on an identity whose secret finds its origins in the trade in sugar, wine, and human beings that drives these transatlantic exchanges. As Nancy Pell puts it,"Jane's legacy was built by her uncle on English trade with the West Indian Colonies and on slavery, on the same base, in short as Bertha Mason's attractive dowry. Jane accepts this inheritance" (1977, 415).5 The disclosure of the letter consigned to the domestic vault does not simply effect the triumphant revelation of Jane's identity; it reveals the very principle of sequestration, partitioning, and withholding that simultaneously forges and breaches identity from the very beginning. The appropriating and accumulating of a wealth whose origins must remain obscured (from which the text, in a sense, will indeed struggle to "detach" itself) is here perfectly echoed by the textual economy of withholding and preservation. The first sentence of this letter, incidentally, begins, "Will you have the goodness to send me the address of my niece, Jane Eyre" (Bronte 1994, 236). We might fruitfully ponder the ways in which the imperial missive both fails and ultimately succeeds in reaching its destination, the point being surely that its actual addressee is the vault, the archive, just as Jane, finally discovering the reason why all of the letters she addressed to Thornfield after her departure have gone answered, realizes they have been so many "epistles to a vault" (420). If this letter is the scrap of text that most obviously interpellates Jane as a national and imperial subject (granting her symbolically a name along with a familial and pecuniary legacy), the apparent failure of the text to reach its destination, its withholding by the very archive that it conscribes, again depends on the manner in which empire has become the heterogeneous supplement that both doubles and "half-effaces" national identity. Far from "patching," this scrap of textuality threatens in a sense to "unstitch" the fabric that furnishes English identity. The reason that Jane's letter remains unanswered is that the house, the archive, has of course meanwhile gone up in flames.
Wide Sargasso Sea, the 1966 novel by the Dominican writer Jean Rhys, takes us back to the Caribbean childhood of "Bertha Mason," born Antoinette Cosway, and yet, as I have suggested, it also obsessively revisits Thornfield Mall. The house is the setting of Bertha/Antoinette's sequestration once again in the third and final section of the novel; but more interestingly it is already multiply prefigured through a kind of textual decoupage/collage in various domestic settings in the Caribbean, especially the two houses (and estates) of Coulibri and Granbois.The Caribbean landscape is littered with the burned ruins of the old estate houses, the domestic archives of the destruction associated with slave rebellions and post-emancipation resentments: "Certainly many of the estate houses were burned. You saw ruins all over the place" (Rhys 1982, 133). Lee Erwin (1989) focuses at length on the significance of the burning of houses and of the ways in which this implies an identification between Bertha and those who set fire to the family estate in Wide Sargasso Sea. The remains of the domestic archive conjure up an image of life in the ruins of imperial history, and the names of abandoned (and haunted) structures include "Nelson's Rest;'an appellation that would be utterly parodic, given the far from quiescent nature of the past in the text, were it not that the linguistic hybridity of the Caribbean archive suggests that this con tunes as much Nelson's remains (restes in French) as a placid domestic abode. Significantly, such ruins are tabooed, subject to a segregation that prevails in the post-emancipation landscape: Mr. Luttrell's house was left empty, shutters banging in the wind. Soon the black people said it was haunted, they wouldn't go near it. And no one came near us" (Rhys 1982, 18).The memories that haunt the imperial archive may well be shunned, kept secret, and set aside, but the 'shutters' (which shut in? or shut out?), like the curtains, doors, and windows of Thornfield, speak a noisy ambivalence once again at the site of the domestic/archival boundary.
To return to the parallels between textual and architectural structures, the multiply fragmented and refracted echoes of burned and ruined structures across the text become, surely, a figure for the problematic, and even impossible, structure of the text itself Notably Bertha/Antoinette's childhood house "leaks like a sieve" (Rhys 1982, 29), although it will later be patched up by her stepfather. Mr. Mason.The leaking of the house is associated with a textual structure into which multiple, often barely distinguishable and sometimes unattributed. voices infiltrate. Commenting on the significance of the text's formal characteristics, Laura E. Ciolkowski argues that "The competing narrative frames, authorial voices, and shifting points of view ... reenact the struggles over meaning that are embedded within the fictions of colonial identity and English imperial control" (1997, 340). Thornfield, moreover, is barely more than a literary conceit in the text. It is first evoked through the pen of the (unnamed) Rochester, precisely, it would appear, as an antidote to the sense of ubiquitous "leaking" associated with the pervasive voices of gossiping servants:
However much I paid Jamaican servants I would never buy discretion. I'd be gossiped about, sung about (but they make up songs about everything, everybody.You should hear the one about the Governor's wife). Wherever I went I would be talked about. I drank some more rum and, drinking. I drew a house surrounded by trees. A large house. I divided the third floor into rooms and in one room I drew a standing woman--a child's scribble. i dot for a head, a larger one tor the body, a triangle for a skirt, slanting lines for arms and feet. But it was, in English house. (Rhys 1982, 163)
It is noteworthy that, even as the function of the house seems to be to contain, its integrity as a structure is immediately challenged by the association between the third floor and a "dividing" that again partitions the structure from within. Given the emphasis on the textual nature of this house with its carefully inscribed divisions and sequestrations, it is hardly surprising perhaps that when she is brought to England, Bertha expresses great skepticism about the reality of the house she sees and indeed of the nation itself:
Then I ope n the door and walk into their world. It is, as I always knew, made of cardboard.I have seen it before somewhere, this cardboard world where everything is coloured brown or dark red or yellow that has no light in it. As I walk along the passages I wish I could see what is behind the cardboard. ... This cardboard house where I walk at night is not England. (Rhys 1982, 180-81)
"But it ims an English house," Rochester insists, and the point is surely that the house is a pure literary conceit (hardbound between "cardboard" covers), one founded upon well-known (and specifically gothic) precedents ("I have seen it before somewhere"), in which Antoinette's future is re-echoed to her and even proleptically pre-scribed for her (Rhys 1982, 163).The place that Antoinette is to occupy is literally inscribed through a flourish of the pen, just as Jane's own withdrawal to the library/schoolroom has in fact been dictated by the orders of Mr. Rochester. Indeed, Antoinette's entire identity (and she is to be renamed "Bertha" through the whim of Rochester) is reduced here to a literary conceit, a series of flourishes of the pen: a dot, a scribble, a triangle, and sloping lines.
It is not only Antoinette, however, who finds elements of her fate prescribed for her in the story of Jane Eyre, a story, it should be noted, that in terms of the chronology of the plots, actually follows and thus logically repeats elements of this belated re-inscribed 'origin.' On arriving at Granbois, where the new couple are to set up their first marital home, it is Rochester now who is tempted to withdraw into the space of the window: "Under the open window a small writing-desk with paper, pens, and ink. 'A refuge' I was thinking when someone said, This was Mr. Mason's room, sir, but he did not come here often'" (Rhys 1982, 74). If the presence of paper, pens, and ink suggests a more active relationship to the fate he will perhaps, unlike Jane and Antoinette, be able to write for himself, the sense in which it is pre-scribed is suggested by the inevitable presence of another (albeit significantly impoverished) version of the library, "a crude bookshelf made of three shingles strung together over the desk," containing a number of books: "Byron's poems, novels by Sir Walter Scott, Confessions of an Opium Eater, sonic shabby brown volumes, and on the last shelf, Life and Letters of....The rest was eaten away" (75). The use of ellipses is frequent, especially at the end of the many fragments of letters and stories that appear never to be fully integrate ed into this leaky and ruined archive of a text, and here it becomes associate ed with the sense in which the books that furnish this domestic setting have become as ruined as the structures in which they find themselves housed. Notably, chough, this textual decomposition also suggests a moment of failure in terms of the pre-scribing of identity, since it is clearly a name that is missing on the binding of the final incomplete volume, this indeterminate life and perhaps uncompleted collection of letters. (6) National identity itself seems to have come unbound in this disintegration, since the binding of De Quincey's text is also missing its canonical reference to Einglishness. If the bookcase is, nevertheless, an image of imperial canonicity, a symbol of the pedagogical prescription of identity by and from the imperial center, the indeterminate nature of national/imperial inscription (and again interpellation or conscription) seems to be multiply overdetermined in the image of the partial and incomplete collection of texts worn and eaten away, reduced, one might say, to scraps. (7)
As if to supplement the textual lacks remarked upon here, the narrative immediately proffers a letter written by Rochester to his father, a letter that apparently concludes by promising that he will "write again in a few day's dine," but which, as if remarking its own deficiency, then appends a further supplement in the form of a postscript that ends with a promise that "my next letter will be longer and more explicit" (Rhys 1982, 76). "There are blanks in my mind that cannot be filled up," concludes this section of the text, having amply demonstrated the thwarted efforts at textual completion (76). Elsewhere in the novel an anonymous correspondent writes that"I sit at my window and the words fly past me like birds," again uncannily revisiting Jane's flight into Bewick's History of British Birds as she sits in the window at Gateshead (98). At least provisionally completing (or rather setting aside) his writing, Rochester notes, "I wondered how they got their letters posted. I folded mine and put it into a drawer of the desk" (76). Once again, the archive consigns through a preservation that is also a withdrawing and a withholding, a folding away and putting on reserve. Just as Jane is to discover that her letters to Rochester have been "sent to the crypt," so too is it made clear here that the crypt is in fact nothing but a function of the archive itself, furnished as it is with drawers for the consignation of its missives. Here, surely, the crypt to which Rochester's letter is consigned is again a national and imperial crypt. The drawer, like the bookcase, is in a sense the symbol of the furnishing of the Caribbean as an imperial abode, and again reading might be seen as part of the pedagogical mode of subjectivation that performs such an important role in both texts, but the consigning of the letter to the drawer also marks the withholding and suspension of the national archive.
If, as we have seen, the revelatory force of the narrative of Jane Eyre is associated with letters secreted in drawers, Wide Sargasso Sea symbolically supplements the textual archive of its literary predecessor; but it does so in ways which, far from simply amplifying, augmenting, or tending to complete the archive, render its problems of secretion, segregation, withholding, and repression all the more compelling. The second narrative does not exactly reinstate a missing story, a misplaced piece of a canonical literary archive imagined ideally to be complete, as if Wide Sargasso Sea, with its meagcr book-shelves, were supposed belatedly to restore the book that Jane has (mis)appropriated to herself from the bookcase at Gateshead. Rather, like the letter consigned to the drawer, the novel becomes a textual supplement that remarks the necessary and, as Derrida would say, a priori partiality of the archive. Wide Sargasso Sea as a postcolonial text that responds critically to the culture of empire, revisits the British literary canon not (or not only) liberally to extend and broaden it--"three shingles," after all, being its entire symbolic extent here (Rhys 1982, 75)--but also in order to subvert it from within, taking residence inside the textual domicile of empire in order to bring about its disintegration or even, indeed, its conflagration.
Both texts, do, of course centrally involve the conflagration of Thornfield Hall as the key figure of the national/imperial archive. "Is there a fire in the library?" Blanche Ingram ingenuously enquires in Jane Eyre (Bronte 1994, 192), and the answer is that fire is indeed not only to be found in that particular domestic archive, but is an omnipresent quality of houses in the novel. Domestic fires are variously characterized in the text as "good," "brilliant," "excellent," "cheerful," "genial," "generous," and "superb"; but fire, too, obviously participates in the violent ambivalence that characterizes the archive itself, and when Jane wakes up in the Red Room, it is to the specter of the fire as a "terrible red glare'' (21). The red of the fire that will spread through hangings and curtains is already, significantly, a quality of the furnishings it will consume. The archive is self-immolating according to a strange transitivity that is exploited in Wide Sargasso Sea, where Antoinette/Bertha's red dress functions as a symbolic mediator between curtains and flames: "But I looked at the dress on the floor and it was as if the fire had spread across the room. It was beautiful and it reminded me of something I must do" (Rhys 1982, 187). Fire, the element responsible for the conflagration of the archive, here has a mnemonic force: it is a reminder of Antoinette's destructive and (in Derrida's terms) archiviolithic vocation. In terms of the later novel's habit of disintegrating and reassembling the domestic archives of the earlier text, it is notable that the room that Antoinette enters shortly after (although at this stage perhaps only in a dream) is more reminiscent of the Red Room at Gateshead than it is of Jane Eyre's Thornfield:"It was a large room with a red carpet and red curtains. Everything else was white" (Rhys 1982, 188). finally the red of the carpet and curtains will spread as they and by extension the whole domestic archive of hangings, partitions, and furnishings, are consumed from within by their own redness, their terrible inflammatory quality:"I laughed when I saw the lovely colour spreading so fast" (188).
In accordance with the logic of decoupage. of the disaggregation and structural reassembly of the central motifs of the earlier text, references to fire are also widely scattered throughout Wide Sargasso Sea, and are repeatedly associated with the self-immolation of endless insects: "A great many moths and beetles found their way into the room, flew into candles and fell dead on the tablecloth. Amelie swept them up with a crumb brush. Uselessly. More moths and beetles came" (Rhys 1982, 80). When one particular moth, a "big fellow" and a "gay gentleman" so large he is mistaken for a bird, is "[m]ore stunned than hurt" and survives his particular attempt at self-immolation (181), one is tempted to imagine him as an avatar of Bronte's Rochester (who is wounded but not destroyed by the fire at Thornfield). Hut at another level these insects seem to conjoin the avian characteristics of Jane and the incendiary tendencies of Bertha/Antoinette. At a simpler level, there is surely also a reworking of a seemingly minor incident in Jane Eyre that, nevertheless, plays an important role insofar as it suddenly reintroduces the imperial periphery into the heart of the novel. In the garden at Thornfield, during a moment of pastoral romance, an emissary of the Caribbean makes an unexpected and apparently ominous appearance in the form of a large moth: '"Look at his wings,'said [Rochester],'he reminds me rather of a West Indian insect; one does not often see so large and gay a night-rover in England; there! He is flown'" (247).The complex decomposition and re-combination of these associations in Rhys's novel is reinforced at three other points. When Coulibri is set fire to (seemingly as an expression of the resentments of parts of the Black community). Antoinette's mothers "loose hair" is said to have burned (39). Again, at the end of the text a more complex set of associations is evoked:
I heard the parrot call as he did when he saw a stranger. Qui est la? Qui est D? And the man who hated me was calling too. Bertha! Bertha! The wind caught my hair and ic streamed out like wings. It might bear me up, I thought, if I jumped to those hard stones. (Rhys 1982, 190)
The reappearance of Coco the parrot here is significant, for this is one of two places in die text in which the scene of Bertha Rochester on the roof of the burning Thornfield is evoked. When Jane returns to Thorn field in Bronte's novel, the scene is described by the host of the inn:
"And then they called out to him that she was on the roof, where she was standing, waving her arms, above the battlements, and shouting out till they could hear her a mile off: I saw her and heard her with my own eyes. She was a big woman, and had long black hair: we could see it streaming against the flames as she stood. I witnessed, and several more witnessed, Mr. Rochester ascend through the sky-light on to the roof; we heard him call 'Bertha!' We saw him approach her; and then, ma'am, she yelled and gave a spring, and the next minute she lay smashed on the pavement." (Bronte 1994, 423)
An even more detailed reworking (or textual montage) of this scene is produced in Wide Sargasso Sea during the description of the fire at Coulibri; "I opened my eyes, everybody was looking up and pointing at Coco on the glads railings with his feathers alight. He made an effort to fly down hut his clipped wings failed him and he fell screeching. He was all on fire" (Rhys 1982, 42-3).
The logic of this chain of associations between insects, birds, Jane, and Bertha/Antoinette (and perhaps also Rochester), is to underscore that the act of vengeance wrought upon the imperial/domestic patriarchive is not so much an act that conies from outside--whether we take the 'outside' to be the imperial periphery from which moths are sent, or the Black Jamaican community from the surrounding Spanish Town, or indeed that Ottoman Empire which has haunted Jane Eyre's domestic interiors--as an act of self-immolation perpetrated by the archive's own residents and conscripted subjects. In a sense, the vandalistic assault on the archive comes from within, and indeed from the innermost inside, which is to say from those spaces--third-floor oubliettes, but also libraries and schoolrooms--that have been held in reserve as the very heart of the archive and also, according to the logic of archiving as analyzed by Derrida, segregated and set aside as a "prosthesis of the inside "This is to remind us that moths, beetles, parrots, and fireflies, as well as Jane and Bertha themselves (or indeed perhaps some compound of Jane/Bertha), are the texts'privileged archivists, the guardians of the archive (since it is their appointed place) as well as its designated violators. Coco, with his wings clipped by Mr. Mason, Antoinette/Bertha's stepfather, is surely an image of the domestic constraint to which the female characters are subjected, a reminder of the patriarchal circumscription that makes of the domestic sphere, set aside for women in the texts, a prison if not a crypt. He also becomes a parody of Jane's inscription or circumscription within the textual domain of Bewick's History of British Birds, whose inhabitants have already turned out, as we have noted, to be strangely exiled from their putative national home.8 It is thus ironic that, with his suspicious questioning of those who enter ("Qui est la? Qui est la?"), Coco is also supposed to have the capacity to discriminate between strangers and 'insiders' to domestic space. Graham Huggan emphasizes the significance of Coco in terms of a mimicry that offers a critique of both patriarchy and imperialism (1994, 654). And surely, as a creature defined by his vocation as supposed mimic, through his mnemonic and reiterative echolalias (that are re-echoed even in his very name). Coco also functions as the very principle of the archive itself, he who is most closely associated with the reproduction of the archive; just as Jane, as governess, is both interpellated into the archive (through books and spaces set aside specially for her) and designated to reproduce it pedagogically
However, if the architectural structures of the two texts are indeed indistinguishable from the textual structure, the obsessive revisiting in Wide Sargasso Sea of the burning of Thornfield--a proleptic repetition, let us remember, a compulsive acting out of a conflagration that, in terms of the chronological order of the two plots, has not yet taken place--is also a figuration of the text's will to structural self-immolation. Carole Angier reports that Rhys, after an argument with her second husband, Leslie Tilden Smith, had burned the typescript of an early version of the novel in order to punish him (1990, 371). Strikingly, Angier asserts that the ostensible attempt to punish Tilden Smith "had punished Jean herself even more," and connects it with a tendency in Rhys to "deliberate, irrational, self-destructive violence" (371, 372). In a letter in which she reports to Francis Wyndham that the earlier manuscript had, in fact, been lost in the course of a move--an account which Angier presents as a 'disguise' for the likely self-destructive impulse--Rhys also reports that the manuscript "came to life or hack again (in a way when I met Selma [Vaz Dias]" (1985, 213).The title of this earlier manuscript wask "Le Revenant" wonderfully capturing the principle of ghostly revisitations that seems compulsively to haunt the text's relationship to Brontes novel as well as the persistence of the motif of vengeance wrought through textual self-immolation. (9)
The cardboard structure to which Bertha/Antoinette sets fire is, we have suggested, as much book as it is house. The title of one of Rhys's short stories is "The Day They Burned the Books" (1987), and the titular books include the Encyclopedia Britannica, Froude's English in the West Indies and, marvel of marvels, British Flowers, Birds and Beasts. In considering the relationship between these two texts, these two archives, the focus of our attention is obviously likely to be drawn to the burning of textual archives, of libraries and bookcases along with Bewick's History of British Birds, Gulliver's Travels, Pamela, De Quincey, Byron, and Scott. It is with a certain political satisfaction, then, that we could read the textual conflagration staged by Rhys quite simply as an act of simultaneous feminist and postcolonial anti-canonical and anti-archival revenge, one that attempts a violent transformation of the Caribbean's literary and discursive landscape just as its physical landscape is revealed to be covered in the burned and ruined structures of colonial habitation, There, surely, is an emblematic response to the question of Anglophone literatures in international contexts. (10) And yet the question is more complicated than this. According to these texts, the conflagration that would destroy the imperial and patriarchal archive can only be performed precisely through a revisitation and rehabitation of the very structures to be destroyed. Since the postcolonial archive inhabits and haunts the inner sequestrations of the imperial archive--the reserved spaces of its nooks and chests and drawers--then, like Coco the parrot, it is necessarily caught up in repetition even as it dreams of flight from its colonial domicile. The act of revenge, like Bertha's destructive rage, must therefore be implicated at some level with a self-immolation. But there again, what we are reminded of in the revisiting of the imperial archive is that it too was always breached and burning, "fevered" according to Derrida, sequestrated and partitioned from inside, in principle, from its very beginnings. The destructive Bertha is, it must be repeated, accordingly also the quintessential figure of the archivist. Wide Sargasso Sea is only an act of'revisiting' in a very strange sense: as 'prequel' it is a repetition of events that have not yet happened, or rather an assault on the precise principle of an origin, an arche, that is not already archival, caught up in recollection and repetition. After all, when we hear Antoinette's mother screaming "Qui est la? Qui est la?" at the time of the fire, echoing the echolalic speech of Coco, the very principle of the priority of some supposed 'original' speech act seems to come under pressure at the very moment of the archive's conflagration.
The structure of Jane Eyre already contains, and finds its ontological principle in, its repetition, a repetition that simultaneously initiates and destroys the archive, just as it contains its archivist, the archiviolithic Bertha Mason. Rhys's novel, I am suggesting, in its processes of'decomposition,' does not simply revisit the architectural and textual structures of the canonical novel that it appropriates as its archive. It becomes, in fact, an allegory of the very act of archival revisiting that it simultaneously performs. It is not simply that, as a text, Wide Sargasso Sea hovers between the emblematic figures of a domesticated Jane, who, we remember, begins the text by "possess[ing herself] of a volume, " and a vandalistic Bertha, who has set fire to books, bookcases, curtains, hangings, and all; it is that a certain overinvestment in imperial memory and the gleeful unleashing of anti-mnemonic forces appear, according to these texts, to be inseparably intertwined in the revisiting of the imperial archive.
Angier, Carole. 1990. Jean Rhys: Life and Work. Boston; Little, Brown and Company.
Armstrong, Nancy. 1990. Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bronte, Charlotte. 1994.Jam Eyre. London; Penguin.
Ciolkowski, Laura E. 1997. "Navigating the Wide Sargasso Sea: Colonial History, English Fiction, and. British Empire." Twentieth-Century Literature 43.3: 339-359.
Derrida, Jacques. 1996. Archive fever: A Freudian Impression. Trans. Eric Prcnowitz. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press.
Doyle, Arthur Conan. (1968). The Ring of Thoth. London: John Murray.
Erwin, Lee. 1989. '"Like in a Looking Glass': History and Narrative in Wide Sargasso Sear Novel: A Forum on Fiction 22.2: 143-158.
Foucault, Michel. 2002. The Archeology of Knowledge. Trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. London and New York: Routledge.
Gellner, Ernest. 1983. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. 1979. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer in the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. London and New Haven: Yale University Press.
Huggan, Graham. 1994. "A Tale of Two Parrots: Walcott, Rhys, and the Uses of Colonial Mimicry." Contemporary Literature 35.4: 643-660.
Mardorossian, Carine M. 1999. "Shutting Up the Subaltern: Silences, Stereotypes, and Double-Entendre in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea." Callaloo 22.4: 1071-1090.
Pell, Nancy. 1977. "Resistance, Rebellion and Marriage: The Economics of Jane Eyre" Nineteenth-Century Fiction 31.4: 397-420.
Rhys, Jean. 1982. Wide Sargasso Sea. New York: Norton.
--1985. Letters 1931-66. Ed. Francis Wyndham and Diana Melly. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
--1987. "The Day They Burned the Books." The Collected Short Stories. New York: W.W.Norton.
Richards, Thomas. 1993. The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire. London: Verso.
Said, Edward W. 1994. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage.
Sheridan, Richard B. 1994. Sugar and Slavery: An Economic History of the British West Indies 1623-1775. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1985. "Three Women's Texts and A Critique of Imperialism." Critical Inquiry 12.1: 243-61.
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(1.) "The most famous reading of the two novels in terms of imperial dynamics remains that of Gayatri Spivak in "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism" (1985). Her argument that Wide Sargasso Sea constitutes an act of 'reinseriptiorf is related to what here I am calling a 'revisiting1 (1985, 244).
(2.) Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar in The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) relate the narrative logic of Jane Tyre to a feminist rewriting of the allegorical journey ot John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.Their reading too pays close attention to the topographies of the house, beginning with Jane's ambiguous withdrawal into the window, and notes the significance of the bird imagery with which it is associated, although they do not link this with the problematics of nation and empire.
(3) For a reading of the importance of slavery and emancipation in Jam Eyre that takes a biographical approach, see Maryanne C.Ward (2002).
(4.) Examples of this include Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Ring of Thoth" or the 1932 film The Mummy. It is a motif that recurs throughout the novels of Sax Rohmer.
(5.) On the economy of sugar and slavery in the Caribbean, and on the particular commercial connections between Jamaica and Madeira, see Richard B. Sheridan (1994), especially page 313.
(6.) For Spivak, the missing portion of the title suggests the absent 'patronymic,' and it is certainly interesting that this is followed by a scene of letter-writing in which the son might be seen as attempting to make reparation to the father through promises ot a supplementary writing (1985, 252).
(7.) According to Carine M. Mardorassian, the use of ellipses in Wide Sargasso Sea is one of a number of formal devices whereby the text actively exposes the colo nialist assumptions of Antoinette/Bertha in particular (1999, 1072).
(8.) Don Randall has kindly pointed out to me that the name of the estate itself, Coulibrh associates it with the hummingbird (French; colihri; Spanish: colibrf) and thus to the problematics of home and flight, withdrawal. Coco's name could thus also be understood as echoing (and mocking) the name of the house and even the very principle of domiciliation. It is also possible that Coulibri contains echoes of the ser pent or viper (French: couleuvre; Spanish culehra) that underscore the suggestion that the Caribbean is simultaneously the site of an imagined paradisiacal originary innocence and the location of an imperial'original sin' that haunts the characters of the novels, as its legatees, from its disruptive place in the archive.
(9.) I am much indebted to a very careful reader for College Literature for pointing out the significance of the title of the earlier manuscript and the story of its having been burned.
(10.) An earlier version of this paper was first given as a paper as the conference on 'Anglophone Literatures in International Contexts.'
Trevor Hope teaches at Yasar University, Izmir, Turkey. He is currently completing a book entitled Mourning People: Nation, Archive, and Melancholia.