Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNumérosVol. IV - n°4AdaptationsThe spectre of an “empty bed”: De...


The spectre of an “empty bed”: Debbie Shewell’s More Than One Antoinette

Le spectre du « lit vide » : More Than One Antoinette de Debbie Shewell
Sue Thomas
p. 131-143


La pièce de théâtre gothique de Debbie Shewell intitulée More Than One Antoinette fut présentée à Londres en 1990 au Young Vic Studio par la troupe féministe britannique Monstrous Regiment. Cette pièce propose une révision de deux textes: Jane Eyre et Wide Sargasso Sea. Elle tente d’instaurer un dialogue critique entre les deux histoires afin d’aborder la question du sujet féministe britannique contemporain.Reprenant l’argument de Judith Halberstam selon lequel « la littérature de l’horreur » a la « faculté de transformer les combats politiques en états mentaux » et de « brouiller la distinction entre les deux », cet article examine le regard critique que pose Debbie Shewell sur Charlotte Brontë et Jean Rhys et analyse la portée et les conséquences de l’interprétation psychologique que fait Debbie Shewell de Bertha Mason Rochester et de sa relation avec Jane Eyre.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1  Shewell’s is not the only stage adaptation of Jane Eyre with Wide Sargasso Sea. Others are Valerie (...)

1Reader, she still marries him. But Jane Eyre and Edward Fairfax Rochester do not live happily ever after in Debbie Shewell’s Gothic play More Than One Antoinette. The play was produced in 1990 at the Young Vic Studio in London by the British feminist theatre company Monstrous Regiment. In Brontë Transformations: The Cultural Dissemination of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights Patsy Stoneman traces the impact of “fascination” with and a growing “sympathy” for the Bertha Mason figure since the 1890s (178). “The emergence of Bertha has […] not only focussed new attention on the colonial woman within Charlotte Brontë’s text”, she argues, “it has also called into question the whole status of Jane Eyre as ‘the love story’” (197). Central to this process was the success of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), which took as its point of departure from Jane Eyre the humanisation of Bertha Mason Rochester in the figure of Antoinette Cosway Mason Rochester and the placement of her as a historical subject formed by racial slavery and its legacies. More Than One Antoinette is a canonical revision of, a writing back to both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, which addresses the contemporary English feminist subject1. The text is haunted by the “presence of slavery as historical residue and psychic contamination” (Punter 64). I examine Shewell’s critical engagement with Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, taking up Judith Halberstam’s argument that “literary horror” has the “ability to transform political struggles into psychological conditions” and “blur the distinction between the two” (18).  Shewell psychologises Bertha and her relationship with Jane Eyre. In this, her use of literary horror supports Steven Bruhm’s 2002 argument that

what makes the contemporary Gothic contemporary […] is not merely the way Freudian dynamics underlie Gothic narratives […] but how contemporary Gothic texts and films are intensely aware of this Freudian rhetoric and self-consciously about the longings and fears it describes. In other words, what makes the contemporary Gothic contemporary is that the Freudian machinery is more than a tool for discussing narrative; it is in large part the subject matter of the narrative itself. […] To the degree that the contemporary Gothic subject is the psychoanalytic subject (and vice versa), she/he becomes a/the field on which national, racial, and gender anxieties configured like Freudian drives get played out and symbolized over and over again. (262)

2More Than One Antoinette brings together elements of and text from Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, taking as its major motif the idea of a sisterhood between Jane Eyre and Antoinette Cosway Mason, which had been influentially articulated by Elizabeth Baer in 1983. Even though Shewell and Baer explore different parallels in the development of these two characters to justify their interpretations, they both read Antoinette/Bertha as a monitory double of Jane and suggest “that the real meaning of sisterhood is the courage of one generation to empower the next” (Baer 133). Baer proposes five commonalities in the development of the characters to justify her argument about sisterhood: that they are “impelled on arduous journeys” (134); that they are estranged from parents, in Jane’s case through early orphanhood; that a male child receives preferential treatment within families in their childhoods; that they are “raised by aunts” and develop relationships with “strong, nurturing surrogate mothers from the servant class”; and that they “are hit on the head by an object thrown by another child, and in both instances this aggression is unjustified” (135). Shewell’s Jane and Antoinette both experience estrangement from parents and a sense of transcendental homelessness, which Marianna Torgovnick explains as “a form of absolute (though reversible) alienation from the self, from society, and (the source of all other alienations) from ‘immanent totality’—a phrase that denotes the effortless awareness of meaning and purpose, the complete correspondence of personal desire and cosmos, the presence of secular grace” (227). In the child Jane’s case, this sense of homelessness is alleviated by Christian conviction. Both women have prescient dreams, and in each the death instinct crucially develops through a relationship with a childhood friend or playmate.

3Shewell plays up the theme of doubling (more than one) through a compelling use of mirror images in the stage poses of actresses and the staging of scenes, in plot developments involving mirrors and reflections in mirrors, in extensive verbal echo, and in the device of a split stage representing England and the West Indies. Antoinette’s schizophrenia after her childhood playmate Tia throws the stone, a condition figured as “the woman in a cage, bent out of shape with pain” and “despair” (70), is staged through the device of two Antoinette characters. The part of Tia, who identifies herself as a “black nigger” (5), is doubled with Antoinette 2. Antoinette 2 will repeat the child Tia’s songs, words, and sentiments on marriage as an economic institution among white people, but is also given new dialogue and parts of Rhys’s Antoinette’s narrative to speak. In the schizophrenic Antoinette, Tia/Antoinette 2 is the “agent of the death drive as a sadistic impulse turned outward with an emphasis on … extreme vengeance and passion”—Elisabeth Bronfen’s characterisation of Bertha (221). It is Antoinette 2, for instance, who tears Jane’s bridal veil and who, “biting and scratching” (65) is displayed and restrained by Rochester after the interrupted wedding ceremony.

4The range of characters in the two novels and the scope of formative experiences on the Jane and Antoinette characters are pared back considerably by Shewell. Retrospective narration with the audience as addressee is often given to Jane. Jane is introduced to the audience as a self-conscious autobiographer recording her life for posterity in a notebook. Her voice as she writes a composition alternates with Antoinette’s, setting up an opposition between literary and oral cultural formation. Jane’s creativity is expressed in the play in writing rather than art. Jane’s voice is reflective, speaking in the past tense throughout most of Part One. Antoinette, by contrast, as soon as she is interpellated by Christophine speaks in the present tense. The very spare exposition of Jane’s early life suggests that Shewell was assuming audience familiarity with Brontë’s novel. Shewell’s representation of the young Jane focuses on her encounters with mortality in the red room and on the deathbed of an unnamed childhood friend, recognisable to members of the audience familiar with Jane Eyre as Helen Burns.

5Funding constraints on Monstrous Regiment productions determined that most were “small-cast shows” (Reinelt 167). More Than One Antoinette, with five performers in the parts of Antoinette, Tia/Antoinette 2, Christophine, Jane and Rochester and voice-overs of Antoinette’s mother, gossips in the West Indies, and Mrs Reed, was a costly production, which could not afford to be toured outside London and “contributed to a financial crisis of significant proportions” for the company (166). As Janelle Reinelt points out, “[t]he presence on stage of a small number of characters tends, under most circumstances, to highlight internal psychological experiences and unique aspects of personality, rather than the social scope of a community or the dialectical nature of social life among diverse groups” (167).

6In More Than One Antoinette it is Jane and not Mr Briggs who disrupts her wedding to Rochester, declaring dramatically, in a moment of recognition of Antoinette and illumination, the fact of Rochester’s prior marriage. Shewell’s Jane implicitly mocks Brontë’s Rochester’s disavowal of having been cruel in his dealings with Bertha, asking pointedly: “Why are you so cruel to her?” She then reproaches him: “She can’t help being mad” (65). In the closing scene of the play a regretful Jane, haunted by Antoinette/Bertha’s example and death, identifies herself as a “woman who chose not to see” signs of Antoinette’s presence at Thornfield Hall (70). She can only look at Antoinette’s dead body after she acknowledges the pragmatism of her decision to marry Rochester: “And reader I married him. No snivelling. No sentiment. No regret. I will endure only sense and resolution. Leave flying to the birds. Better not to try. Better a mouthful of stones than —” (70). She echoes Antoinette in the early days of her marriage: “Better not to tell people things. Better not to try. To wake up one morning and be alone. Better a mouthful of stones than an empty bed” (22). Shewell’s Rochester, shown to be largely repressing his remorse over his conduct in his relationship with Antoinette in his dealings with Jane, plucks out his own eyes over Antoinette’s dead body—Biblical self-punishment for adulterous desire. The future course of Rochester and Jane’s marriage is implied in Rochester’s fetishisation of the romantic purity and innocence of his future bride Jane as the promise of his “peace of mind and regeneration” (52), “happiness” (53). In Part Two of the play, set at Thornfield Hall, Antoinette’s bridal veil which Rochester eventually gives to Jane becomes the symbol of his fetishisation of the precarious happiness promised by English reproductive sexuality in marriage. Antoinette’s dead body becomes the symbol of the transmission to Jane of a worldly knowledge that challenges the purity and innocence, the happiness he anticipates.

  • 2  Campbell, Drake, Emery, Harris, Savory, Thomas, and Warner provide the fullest treatments of obeah (...)

7The play closes over the dead body of a beautiful woman, the self-referentially invoked aesthetic point of political departure for the play and wistful metonym for the demise of marriage as the happy ending of the romance plot. The prospect of happiness and the happy ending function as the lost objects of heterosexed white femininity and masculinity. Antoinette is a beautiful woman—her image appears in Jane’s mirror when she essays to draw the “loveliest face you can imagine” (54)—and her stage part is intensely lyrical. As Rhys’s and Shewell’s Antoinettes suggest, albeit invoking different sets of figures for the colonial relation, there are always two deaths, “the real one, and the one people know about” (Rhys 77). Rhys, as many critics have pointed out, uses zombification, death-in-life, as the trope for the imperial/colonial relation figured in Rochester and Antoinette’s relationship2. The presence and role of Christophine, Rhys’s reputed obeah woman, invoked in Wide Sargasso Sea by Antoinette in her final dream which prefigures the burning of Thornfield Hall, is crucial to these readings. In Shewell’s play the emblem of the historicity of plantation slavery and the morbid symptom of its demise is the mark left by the stone Tia throws, and it is that historicity which is given raced being in the device of the two Antoinettes. The throwing of the stone provides the psychic causality for Antoinette’s schizophrenia, a condition characterised here by a strong death instinct, and exacerbated by the trauma of the mercenary colonial “romance” enacted in the arranged marriage at the immediate post-emancipation moment, and the marital bed abandoned by Rochester. The condition first manifests itself on Antoinette and Rochester’s wedding day, suggesting that the historical mark of the stone did indeed “spoil” the marriage (12), despite Christophine’s assurance to Antoinette that it would not. In Wide Sargasso Sea, as Sandra Drake points out, Antoinette’s “‘real’ death is her subjugation by Rochester—by the colonizer—the long slow process of her reduction to the zombi state chronicled in the novel” (200).

8Shewell rather marginalises Rhys’s Christophine as a player in Antoinette’s psychodrama; she figures far more extensively in Rochester’s. On the night of the fire at Coulibri, Shewell’s Tia derides Christophine as “Black Englishwoman! White nigger!” (10). In Rhys’s novel, Sass, the servant of Antoinette’s mother, Annette, is called “black Englishman” (25) and the crowd of onlookers at the burning Coulibri call the Mason family “white niggers”, taunting Annette about her family’s loss of economic, and hence social status (5).

9Shewell does suggest through invention of new detail that a strong death instinct is transmitted from Annette to her daughter. In telling Rochester about her mother Antoinette remembers, “When I was a child I used to see my mother look in the mirror and wish that she was someone else. I used to wish that too” (31). (The underlining of words in the script denotes that Antoinette and Antoinette 2 are to speak the words in unison.) Rhys’s Antoinette recalls seeing her grieving mother through the window of the house in which she is kept in Jamaica. After drinking the rum given to her by a “fat black man” Annette smashes the glass. Under instruction from the man a woman, protesting, “‘If she walk in it a damn good thing […] Perhaps she keep quiet then’”, clears away the debris (Rhys 80). In Shewell’s play the woman does not clear the glass away. Both Antoinettes tell that Annette “[m]y mother walked up and down on the glass for a long time, saying ‘Qui est la? Qui est la?” (32). Annette’s action links self-destructive aggression with questions of uncertain self-recognition, but her character is so little developed that these questions are not grounded in her cultural context, or the cross-cultural dynamics of her relationship with her English husband Mr Mason. The traiting of Annette’s condition focusses, then, on her individual psychology, rather than proposes a “sociodiagnostic” that Frantz Fanon suggests generally in Black Skin, White Masks is appropriate in considering the subject formed through colonialism (13).

10The different relation of Jane and Antoinette to the death drive is dramatised in the juxtaposition of Jane’s memory of the red room and a scene condensed from several scenes in Wide Sargasso Sea and partly invented. Jane remembers being “locked” in the “red room”—“chill”, “silent”, and “solemn” because of its associations with the death of an unnamed man nine years before. She “didn’t doubt that his spirit remained, and might quit his abode in vault or churchyard, and rise up before me in this chamber”. Her “reflection” in the mirror—“white face and arms speckling the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still”—“had the effect of a phantom spirit”. In response to her scream Mrs Reed is heard ordering, “Silence. This violence is repulsive”. Shewell’s Jane calls the attempt to suppress an abject response to the spectre of death, not John Reed’s or the Reed family’s general conduct towards her, “Unjust. Unjust” (7). In her representation of Jane, Shewell cuts Brontë’s conventional use of the woman/slave analogy in her representation of gendered class relations, what Jenny Sharpe terms “the feminist metaphor of domestic slavery for staging one woman’s rebellion against sexual and economic bondage [,] […] assertions of a rebellious feminism […] enacted through the figure of a rebel slave” (39). What comforts Jane in the red room are verses from Brontë’s song about the “poor orphan child” with its promise:

There is a thought that for strength should avail me,
Though both of shelter and kindred despoiled,
Heaven is a home and a rest will not fail me;
God is a friend to the poor orphan child.

God and the prospect of a heavenly “home” he offers become the restorative life principles in this scene (7).

11Antoinette’s childhood “‘catechism’” or personal creed, by contrast, is not marked as Christian. It is based on material in Wide Sargasso Sea, placed in the play after rather than before Antoinette hears locals gossip about Annette’s marriage and herself. Shewell’s cutting of the character of Pierre, Antoinette’s brother, necessitates her changing “‘As for those two children—the boy an idiot kept out of sight and mind and the girl going the same way in my opinion—a lowering expression’” (Rhys 17) to “‘And as for the girl—best kept out of sight—such a lowering expression […]’” Shewell’s Antoinette then articulates a desire to obliterate self and cut herself off from affect:

If the razor grass cuts my legs it’s better than people. And if the ants bite me, red ants and black ants and white ants, it’s better than people. And if I see a snake it’s better than people[.]
Watch the red and yellow flowers in the sun and think of nothing.
Think of nothing and a door opens and I am somewhere else, something else.
Not myself any longer. (9)

A crucial moment in the formation of Antoinette’s death drive is dramatised in invented material leading up to her recitation of her catechism. When Antoinette plays with a blond haired doll in a bridal outfit Tia sings a taunting song that reminds Antoinette that the pure white bride is scripted as commercialised object of exchange among English families. The song pushes Antoinette to smash the doll, a sign of her wish to annihilate the lost certitudes of her displaced self. The longer scene of which this material is part connects the loss with the upsetting of racialised class structures under slavery consequent on slave emancipation and the influx of English capital, represented by Mr Mason.

12Jane’s unnamed friend is only remembered on her deathbed, and she is not, as Bronfen argues Brontë’s Helen is, an incarnation of one of the “extremities of death’s agency […] whose desire for death stages a ‘masochistic’ violence against the self, a total subjugation before cultural laws” (219). In a partial displacement and ritualisation of horror Jane can represent the deathbed scene to herself as a dream that becomes “true” (11). In the dream the dying friend asks, “‘have you come to say goodbye?’” and affirms “‘I am going to God […] God loves me […] Jane you think too much of the love of other people’” (10). What the memory confirms, in spite of Jane “screaming” at her consciousness that she is embracing a dead body (11), is that God’s love is consoling, proffering happiness beyond death.

13Antoinette 2, always already raced as black in More Than One Antoinette by the doubling with Tia, becomes the figure of colonial opacity, memory, difference, anxiety, aggression, and the bodied being subjected to a suggested marital rape by Rochester. In the scene titled “Divorce” which follows “Obeah Night” Rochester wakes with Antoinette and Antoinette 2 in bed with him, and “pulls the sheet over them, like covering a body” (34). He soon recognises Antoinette 2 as Bertha and shows her to Antoinette as such—a stark dramatisation of Bertha-become-black in his desire to master Antoinette’s colonial strangeness. He has first seen Antoinette 2 on Obeah Night, after Antoinette recounts to him her sense of Tia as having been her mirror image after the burning of Coulibri, and after Antoinette 2 says “I am not a forgetting person” (32) in relation to Rochester’s broken promise of making Antoinette happy, no more afraid in marriage. Rhys juxtaposes the narrative points of view of Antoinette, the unnamed but recognisable Rochester, and Grace Poole. The difficulty with the device of Tia/Antoinette 2 as a registration of Rochester’s disgust at and abandonment of marital relations with Antoinette is that she has an embodied stage presence beyond her meanings in Rochester’s psychological response to the West Indies.

14In Over Her Dead Body Bronfen argues that “gender constructions are supplementary to the division between life and death and serve to draw a boundary between these two mutually implicated terms” (266). This supplementary division is apparent in stage business in More Than One Antoinette involving the marriage sheet (termed the “wearing sequence” in the script) which charts the deterioration of Antoinette and Rochester’s relationship. The business also suggests that racialised constructions are supplementary to the division between life and death. The marriage sheet, emblematic of white reproductive sexuality, will become a shroud after Rochester recognises Antoinette 2 as Bertha. Antoinette acts out seduction scenarios on the sheet Rochester initially, and then she, spreads out for her, and Rochester ever more violently pulls the sheet from under her causing her to fall over. While initially the business becomes part of a sexual game leading to sex, it soon becomes a sign of Rochester’s abandonment of her emotionally and sexually. In the divorce scene, after Rochester has shrouded Antoinette and Antoinette 2 with the wedding sheet, Antoinette 2 with “white powder” on her face attempts the seduction with Antoinette as an onlooker. Antoinette recognises his violence to Antoinette 2 as an omen of her own future “empty bed” (34). To supplement Bronfen’s argument: “The other economy of identity, whose inscription the hysteric could be seen to trace, is that of our exchange with death. Her [the white Creole’s] refusal [in the masculine imperialist’s eyes] to accept a clear gender [and race] position [sic] [according to his cultural norms] may also be a resistance to the way a fixed sexual [and racial] identity implies an occultation of this other exchange [in an imperialist epistemological scheme]” (based on Bronfen 267).

15The leitmotif of Jane and Rochester’s relationship is a “‘help’ sequence” (41). When Jane and Rochester arrive at Thornfield Hall the furniture is covered in dust sheets, which Rochester removes. His reawakening to the prospect of happiness through marriage to Jane is charted in his responses to Jane’s repeated offers as they make eye contact to help him if he is injured. The injury is dramatised in invented, sometimes moving scenes involving Rochester and Antoinette. The tenor is suggested in sections of a scene titled “The confrontation”:

ROCHESTER: What I have done many people would think wrong. I know that. But I thought it for the best.
ANTOINETTE: An attic room. Was that the best you could do? You frightened?
ROCHESTER: Go away. Please.
ANTOINETTE: What do you want?
ROCHESTER: I simply want to be happy.
ANTOINETTE: I have been too unhappy. It cannot last, being so unhappy, I thought. It would kill me. But it hasn’t.
ROCHESTER: I know. I do know. And I am sorry.
ANTOINETTE: “Forgive me. I have made a terrible mistake”? (…)
ROCHESTER: If there was something I could do to make amends, to atone, I would.
ANTOINETTE: There is nothing. Nothing you can do. You watched me break myself up for you. You watched me die. And there is nothing you can do because the worst of it is I am still alive. I wake up here every morning in this cold dark place.
I still wake up alone. Still here. And I am still alive.
ROCHESTER: I am sorry.
Forgive me.

Shewell’s Antoinette also occasionally offers trenchant commentary on Rochester’s developing relationship with Jane, commentary not heard by Jane. When, for instance, Shewell’s Rochester asks Jane whether or not he would be “justified in overleaping an obstacle of custom, a mere conventional impediment which neither your conscience sanctifies nor your judgement approves” in pursuing “a new acquaintance”, Jane remembers, “He paused for an answer, and what was I to say?” Antoinette exclaims, “No!” (52), a response she reiterates throughout the scene. Such scenes work to counter for the audience what Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak describes Bertha’s function as being in Jane Eyre: “to render indeterminate the boundary between human and animal and thereby to weaken her entitlement under the spirit if not the letter of the Law” (249).

16The help sequences play on the symbolism of Antoinette’s red dress. In Wide Sargasso Sea it is emblematic of Antoinette’s gendered and racialised cultural difference from Rochester and of her alleged intemperance by Rochester’s upper-middle-class English standards. In the first help sequence, “JANE TAKES THE RED DRESS FROM THE TRUNK AND SPREADS IT IN FRONT OF ROCHESTER. HE WALKS TOWARDS IT BUT CANNOT STEP ONTO IT” (41). There is dramatic irony here, of course, as Jane does not know the meanings of the red dress. (Later Rochester will present Jane with Antoinette’s bridal veil from the trunk.) At this point Rochester refuses Jane’s help, and as a sign of his desire to repress his history with Antoinette, he “SNATCHES UP THE DRESS, THROWS IT INTO THE TRUNK AND SLAMS THE LID” (42). Rochester himself will wear Antoinette’s red dress to disguise himself as a gipsy, and, in Shewell’s adaptation of Brontë’s scene in the silk warehouse, the engaged Jane will spurn Rochester’s efforts to dress her in the “bright clothes” he takes from Antoinette’s trunk (59). The suicidal gesture of Antoinette and Antoinette 2 acting in unison is to “THROW THE RED DRESS INTO SPACE” (69). After Rochester then blinds himself, Jane again repeats the offer of help. This time, after initially moving away, he accepts it as a gesture of kindness, but is finally shown standing “lost” while Jane narrates to the audience the implications of her recognition of Antoinette/Bertha and the course she could not follow: “Before her body broke on the hard stones, she flew. Just for a moment. She hurtled herself into the empty air” (70).

17As a theatre company Monstrous Regiment was committed to “discovering and encouraging new women writers, exploring the theory of feminist culture, reasserting the ‘hidden history’ of women, creating non-stereotyped images of women, acting as a consciousness-raising group, attempting the theorising and practice of collectivity and finding a new audience” (Giffen). As such it operated in what Rita Felski would term a feminist counter-public sphere dedicated to the “repoliticization of culture” through attempts “to relate literature and art to the specific experiences and interests of an explicitly gendered community” (167). Reinelt identifies the collectivity addressed by More Than One Antoinette as a “multicultural slant” (Reinelt 166). Monstrous Regiment’s brief is at many levels demonstrated in the decision to workshop and produce More Than One Antoinette. Yet, while admiring the brilliance and astute theatricality of parts of Shewell’s critical engagement with Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, I am interested in drawing out some of the cognitive limits of feminist culture, female stereotyping and multicultural collectivity apparent in the play.

18What are addressed in Jane’s closing recognition of Antoinette in More Than One Antoinette are twentieth-century fin-de-siècle English feminist anxieties around the complicity of feminist individualism and imperialism, characterised as blindness to the pain and despair imperialism and its racialising epistemologies cause. The exposure of such complicity was the object of Spivak’s germinal 1985 essay “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism”, which addresses Jane Eyre as a “cult text” of feminist individualism. She argues that the novel’s imperial “reach and grasp” are underread (244). Bronfen’s discussion of Jane Eyre illustrates her argument that “the death of a woman” often “helps to regenerate the order of society, to eliminate destructive forces or serves to reaggregate the protagonist into her or his community” (219). I would suggest that in More Than One Antoinette Jane’s final ability to look at Antoinette in death works to suggest to the play’s audience a passage to the regeneration of a feminist counter-public sphere through recognition of the colonial woman, and to “reaggregate” Jane’s newly worldly knowledge into this “community” (219). Jane as feminist subject, however, ultimately recognises the humanity of Antoinette and not Antoinette 2. Shewell’s canonical re-vision of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea uses the machinery of psychoanalysis as a narrative motor for the representation of national, racial, gender and political anxieties. Shewell does not address critically the implications of the psychologisation of Tia’s raced being in the figuring of schizophrenia. Emblematic of opacity, destructive aggression, vengeance and physicality, Antoinette 2 conforms to stereotypes of blackness. Shewell does not pose the question of her revision of Rhys’s use of zombification as her figuring of the imperial/colonial relation: “Is the subject of the psychoanalytic model applicable world-wide, universally, or is it Eurocentric?” This, Bart Moore-Gilbert appositely suggests, needs to be “a key question for those who use psychoanalysis in the context of postcolonial forms of analysis” (141).

Haut de page


Works Cited

Baer Elizabeth R. “The Sisterhood of Jane Eyre and Antoinette Cosway.” in Elizabeth Abel, Marianne Hirsch and Elizabeth Langland (eds.). The Voyage In: Fictions of Female Development. Hanover: UP of New England, 1983. 131-148.

Bronfen Elisabeth. Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1992.

Brontë Charlotte. Jane Eyre. 1847. Introduction by Sally Shuttleworth. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.

Bruhm Steven. “Contemporary Gothic: why we need it.” in Jerrold E. Hogle (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. 259-276.

Campbell Elaine. “Reflections of Obeah in Jean Rhys’s Fiction.” Kunapipi 4.2 (1982): 42-50.

Drake Sandra. “Race and Caribbean Culture as Thematics of Liberation in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.” in Jean Rhys. Wide Sargasso Sea. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1999. 193-206.

Emery Mary Lou. Jean Rhys at “World’s End”: Novels of Colonial and Sexual Exile. Austin: U of Texas P, 1990.

Fanon Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. 1967. London: Pluto, 1986.

Felski Rita. Beyond Feminist Aesthetics: Feminist Literature and Social Change. [London]: Hutchinson Radius, 1989.

Giffen Liza. Records of the Monstrous Regiment Theatre Company. AIM25: Archives in London and the M25 area. Accessed 26 May 2003.

Halberstam Judith. Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. Durham: Duke UP, 1995.

Harris Wilson. “Carnival of Psyche: Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.” Kunapipi 2 (1980): 142-150.

Loki Theatre Co-operative. The Haunting of Jane Eyre. Ms. Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth.

Lucas Valerie, and David Collis. Shadows in the Glass. Ms. Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth.

Moore-Gilbert Bart. Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics. London: Verso, 1997.

Punter David. Postcolonial Imaginings: Fictions of a New World Order. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2000.

Reinelt Janelle. “Resisting Thatcherism: The Monstrous Regiment and the School of Hard Knox.” in Lynda Hart and Peggy Phelan (eds.). Acting Out: Feminist Performances. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1993. 161-179.

Review of More Than One Antoinette. by Debbie Shewell. Times (London) 30 March 1990.

Rhys Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. 1966. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1999.

Savory Elaine. “ ‘Another Poor Devil of a Human Being …’: Jean Rhys and the Novel as Obeah.” Jean Rhys Review 7.1-2 (1996): 26-38.

Sharpe Jenny. Allegories of Empire: The Figure of Woman in the Colonial Text. Minneapolis: Minneapolis UP, 1993.

Shewell Debbie. More Than One Antoinette. Play Script No. 4482. British Library, London.

Spivak Gayatri Chakravorty. “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism.” Critical Inquiry 12 (1985/86): 243-261.

Stoneman Patsy. Brontë Transformations: The Cultural Dissemination of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1996.

Thomas Sue. The Worlding of Jean Rhys. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.

Torgovnick, Marianna. Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1990.

Warner Marina. Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002.

Haut de page


1  Shewell’s is not the only stage adaptation of Jane Eyre with Wide Sargasso Sea. Others are Valerie Lucas and David Collis’s Shadows in the Glass, performed by the Sherman Theatre Postgraduate Company in Cardiff in 1988; and the Loki Theatre Co-operative’s The Haunting of Jane Eyre, performed in Haworth in 1991, and then toured. Texts of both plays are held at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.

2  Campbell, Drake, Emery, Harris, Savory, Thomas, and Warner provide the fullest treatments of obeah and zombification in Rhys’s novel.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Sue Thomas, « The spectre of an “empty bed”: Debbie Shewell’s More Than One Antoinette »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. IV - n°4 | 2006, 131-143.

Référence électronique

Sue Thomas, « The spectre of an “empty bed”: Debbie Shewell’s More Than One Antoinette »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. IV - n°4 | 2006, mis en ligne le 20 octobre 2009, consulté le 27 septembre 2021. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Sue Thomas

Prof.(Melbourne, Australie)
Sue Thomas is the author of The Worlding of Jean Rhys (1999), co-author (with Ann Blake and Leela Gandhi) of England through Colonial Eyes in Twentieth-Century Fiction (2001), and compiler of Elizabeth Robins (1862-1952): A Bibliography (1994), and many other titles in the Victorian Fiction Research Guides series. She has published extensively on decolonising literatures and on nineteenth- and twentieth-century women writers, including Charlotte Brontë. She is a Reader in English in the School of Communication, Arts and Critical Enquiry at La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Les contenus de la Revue LISA / LISA e-journal sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • OpenEdition Journals
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search