International Jean Rhys Conference: Transmission Lines / Lignes de transmission
21-22-23 June 2018, Paris Sorbonne University

    Jean Rhys’s recognition as a major author came late, almost accidentally so, and not without a number of misunderstandings, misfires and sidesteps; lines of transmission between her work and contemporary readers now appear certain if erratic, unpredictable, and sometimes discontinuous. Her status within the various lineages of modernist and Caribbean fiction is doubly problematized by Rhys’s position as a woman, and as one of the last members of the white creole society. Jean Rhys’s position upon the literary map of the 20th century remains unstable, even after Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), which constituted a turning point in the critical rediscovery of her earlier work. She shunned public exposure and yet, desperately sought acknowledgement by her own peers; she stood away from the modernist circles of Montparnasse and yet, explored a radically avant-garde writing, which retrospectively makes her rank among them. 
     This conference wishes to interrogate the twists and paradoxes of transmission, in its various, and often, in the case of Rhys, paradoxical, meanings; it will be placed under the sign of plurality and criss-crossing, including that between modernism and (post)colonialism. Indeed, her bridging the span between modernism and post-colonialism has made her an author studied separately by two currents of thought which we would like to reconnect towards a more hybrid reading along the transmission lines of the Caribbean/modernist rhi(ys)zome.
    With Jean Rhys, transmission is precisely not teleological or testamentary. The modernist polyphony at the heart of her experimentations with form can be seen as an obstacle to transmission both technically and hermeneutically, while her always problematic authority places her in the marginalized position of the postcolonial author. Transmission comes up against the notion of inscription; it remains transient, fluid, and precarious. In order to encompass the modernist Rhys and the postcolonial ‘writer back’, we would welcome papers on Jean Rhys’s peculiar history of publications and critical reception, with the late scrutiny by postcolonial studies of an author only seriously acknowledged after The Empire Writes Back (1984). 
    This conference wishes to reassess the heritage of the first critical period largely dominated by an emphasis on the typology of the ‘Rhys woman’ and the victim paradigm: we invite papers examining the resistance to transmission as a process, the deconstruction always at work, the dead-ends and unease in the reading experience, the lines of flight in many directions. Our ultimate aim would be to create a moment of critical kairos by reconnecting the structuralist/modernist reading of the 1980s, and the poststructuralist/postcolonial Rhys of the 1990s: we propose to grasp those lines and allow them to travel farther, towards what is still there to read between the lines – of transmission. 

Topics may include, but are not restricted to:

•    moments of passages, dissemination, transfers and transitions, including between languages
•    patterns of continuity/contiguity and leaps/gaps in texts that struggle against frames of all kinds 
•    the paradigm of memory and testimony, when the marginalized voices of the modernist city and the Empire were grappling with an irrevocable loss and resisting silencing
•    the minimal resistance of female characters who do not recognise the masculine power structures relegating them to passivity 
•    the multiple lines of transmission drawn by Rhys’s letters, whose publication in 1984 corresponded to a landmark in her critical rediscovery
•    reflections on (trans)mediation and generic hybridity 
•    the lines of literary filiation and influence of Rhys on contemporary authors
•    resistance to transmission as an opposition to commodification, to systems of colonial trade and exchange
•    the radio and its impact on the transcription of voices

Please send proposals no later than June 1st 2017 to
Juliana Lopoukhine,
Frédéric Regard and
Kerry-Jane Wallart

We are contemplating publishing a selection of papers after the conference.