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Ending(s), Seriality And Interdiscursivity

The Paradox Of The Collection Of Short Stories In The Works Of Jean Rhys And Janet Frame
Elsa Lorphelin Blaise


Cet article se propose d’examiner, chez deux auteurs - Jean Rhys et Janet Frame - le cas du recueil de nouvelles, qui, par sa composition sérielle même, met en scène la nécessaire et paradoxale répétition de la fin, de même que la régénération et le rétablissement presque incessant de la voix narrative. Loin de n’être plus qu’une production littéraire autosuffisante (selon les théories de E.A. Poe, par exemple), la nouvelle discute et réévalue, non seulement dans un premier mouvement, la notion de fin, mais s’établit et s’élabore également au sein du recueil dans un rejet de la finitude, créant des phénomènes d’écho, de répétition et d’intertextualité. Déboutant ainsi les qualités hermétiques de la nouvelle, le recueil se fait théâtre de voix et d’interactions, tout comme il déstabilise l’un des marqueurs essentiels du genre: la force du dénouement, et l’effet de clôture qui doit en découler.

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1There was a time when, at least as far as the terminology was concerned, the question and implications of the literary ending seemed to have been settled upon. Indeed, if we think of Aristotle’s assertion that every work of fiction needed to count a beginning, a middle and an ending (besides its own end in terms of diegetic resolution and, metatextually speaking, of finality and authorial intention), the efficiency of the narrative’s closure appeared as a mere ingredient of literary composition, on an equal footing with, for instance, the requirements inherent to narrative beginnings (exposition scene, introduction of characters and place, etc.) or the peripeteias in between. In the classic short story influenced as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries by the literary strategies of the genre of the novel, the concept of ending diverged very little from one genre to the other. One of the first and most prominent theoreticians of the short story, Edgar Allan Poe, continued to view the ending as a place of resolution of all the conflicts developed within the plot. Just as for the novel, the notion of ending remained crucial, insofar as it was expected to ensure the absolute closure of the story, and (in the case of the short story) for this unity of impression. In his Philosophy of Composition, written in 1846, E.A. Poe presented this concept: 

If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression – for, if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and everything like totality is at once destroyed. […] [B]revity must be in direct ratio of the intensity of the intended effect – this, with one proviso – that a certain degree of duration is absolutely requisite for the production of any effect at all. (6-7)

2Unity of impression guaranteed what E.A. Poe called in an 1842 review on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales, “the deepest effects” (May, 60) of the short story. Yet, despite the ending being the keystone of the architecture of E.A. Poe’s short stories, its second role was to seal the short story and to make it perfectly hermetical. Indeed, the full effect of the short story could only be reached provided what he called“the immense force derivable from totality” (May, 61) was achieved. And that, to him, depended solely on the absence of “external influences — resulting from weariness or interruption” (May, 71).

3What is particularly interesting in this last quote is that even though E.A. Poe was here criticizing long fiction, which to him jeopardized the precious effect of the ending due to what he assumed was the short attention span of an average reader, his short fiction proves his dislike for anything that might disrupt concentration and lead the reader away from the path designed by the author. This includes any form of influence altogether, for the irruption, inside the story, of another presence (or voice) differing from the narrator’s, might interrupt — as he himself says — the building up of tension and suspense, and completely ruin the majestic yet somehow perfectly “artificial” feeling of awe that accompanied the dénouement of his short stories.The use of the term “artificial” refers again to Philosophy of Composition. Conceived as a literary manifesto, the text gives E.A. Poe’s literary “recipe” to achieve aesthetical completion and perfection. Comparable to a literary equation, in which one mistake might be fatal, the text clarifies the artist’s goal: the reader has to be held by the hand and led through a pre-defined variety of emotions, to reach the text’s grande finale and experience what the author had intended him to experience from the start.

  • 1 See Viorica Patea, Short Story Theories: a Twenty-First-Century Perspective for an overview of the (...)
  • 2 J. Joyce defined the notion as «a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speec (...)

4Of course the particularity of such a conception of the short story and of literature altogether fails to render the complexity of a genre whose origins are so difficult to locate through time and geographic areas. 1 But this limited conception gave way in the twentieth century, under the influence of modernism, to a complete revision of the classical landmarks of fiction writing (James Joyce’s Dubliners, his contribution to the genre of the short story, and the notion of “epiphany” immediately come to mind), and the question of the ending, further explored and experimented upon later during the postmodern era was precisely led to experience multiple redefinitions and completely ceased to be the stable notion initially defined by Aristotle. Indeed, James Joyce’s epiphany 2 and the literary questioning it entailed mainly effected in the realisation that the hidden structures of the text might come to be made manifest to add to the generic and intellectual feeling of fragmentation proper to the genre of the short story. Jean Rhys and Janet Frame are, in this regard, two examples of novel and short-story writers (none of the genres being exclusive or marginal in their overall production), who have repeatedly experimented upon the questions of diegesis, of endings, and of form.

5The most obvious examples here are Jean Rhys’s rewriting/sequel of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), which presents us with a climactic work on the very themes of ending, of multiplication of authorial voices, intertextuality and external links with other pieces of literary work – all of which were already addressed in her early work, and in her short fiction. Quite interestingly, we will see that this decision to write a text as a coda (or appendix, both in the literary and biological senses of the term) to another, might not be isolated and anodyne, and work as another manifestation of the role of the modernist epiphany.

Ending(s) in a Volume of Short Stories

6What makes the question of the ending so fascinating and relevant when it comes to the genre of the short story is, to begin with, that when assembled in a collection (which is how we shall consider our texts in this paper), it no longer deals with one ending as with a whole series of endings: the ending of the short story (as it first and foremost stands alone), the repeated endings contained in a collection of short stories, and the final end of the collection of short stories itself. So that even before attempting to start any form of study of the notion of ending, the collection subverts the very term by re-negotiating the genre’s definition by including plurality. This generic specificity is particularly addressed in short-story cycles such as Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919) or Eudora Welty’s The Golden Apples (1949), but might also, as we will see, sometimes be harder to detect.

7The term plural is a word that could define their writing. First, from a biographical perspective, their personalities may have been subjected to the idea of plurality. Jean Rhys was a white female writer born in 1890 on the island of Dominica in the West Indies, coming from a family of former slave-owning planters who emigrated to England when she was sixteen. Too white for the black island of Dominica, too culturally black for the delicate whiteness of Western Europe, Jean Rhys struggled all her life to try and reconcile her shattered psyche trying to juggle mixed origins, a colonial background and the submission to masculine domination. She is the author of more than fifty short stories, which address the same figure of autobiographical penniless female characters going through life trying to make sense of their true hybrid selves, and of their humiliating financial and sexual dependence on men for their survival.

8Janet Frame was born in 1924 in New Zealand settlers’ society also had to experience living on the margins of the Empire, as a second-rate bearer of both English culture and local settler culture. Besides, as a writer diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was young and committed to a mental institution for eight years, plurality, division and duplication are key concepts of her writing which often sets her short stories in mental hospitals or among marginal people.

  • 3 See Janet Frame’s A Note on the Russian War whose brevity forbids the forming of any plot. It resis (...)

9In their work, the notion of story itself is jeopardized by the difficulty to categorize Jane Rhys’ and Janet Frame’s short stories. Indeed, the concept of diegesis undergoes a redefinition or disappears to give way to sketches whose expected final epiphany is denied.3 What strikes the reader as unsatisfactory endings is often an indication that the satisfaction of the reading experience is not to be found in a traditionally chronological order, but in the vertical, palimpsest-like deciphering of the density of a brief literary form that ironically ends up being not so brief after all. The multiple echoes and interactions between the authors’ work and their predecessors’ work towards this particular effect. Titles of volumes and short stories, whether belonging to the same collection or not, further contribute to this effect, e.g. Janet Frame’s 1951 The Lagoon was followed by 1963 The Reservoir thereby shedding light on the echoing questions of emptiness, saturation and fluidity. Although these techniques might evoke Mikhaïl Bakhtine’s dialogism, especially when the opposition between voices is at stake within one particular story, interdiscursivity better addresses the whole of the author’s production. Indeed, it allows a wider range of narratorial techniques - echoes, quotes, allusions, repetitions, sequels, parody.

Intertextuality, Interdiscursivity And The Multiplication Of Voices

10Both Jean Rhys and Janet Frame repeatedly and extensively resort to intertextuality, to interdiscursivity and to the multiplication of voices, “external influences” and possible interpretations, thus turning their apparently trivial and aimless sketches into discursive trompe-l’oeil. For instance, Janet Frame at the end of her first collection of short stories The Lagoon, concluded the last story (incidentally called “My Last Story”) by saying that she had “the wrong way of looking at Life” (183), thus warning the reader to approach her work slantwise, as one would an anamorphosis.

11Jean Rhys, in her story “Mixing Cocktails” exploits the narrative and authorial confusion allowed by the substantial use of free indirect speech to inform her readers that intellectual passivity is no longer an option. She makes her young narrator say, “I am speaking to you; do you not hear? You must break yourself of your habit of never listening. You have such an absent-minded expression.” (The Collected Short Stories 37), thereby mixing the child’s speech with the mother’s, and having the reader wonder about the initial source of enunciation and its expected recipient. Is it the child, or the reader? In both cases, the warning is clear- the days when the reader could remain a passive entity certain to be rewarded by a fulfilling ending are gone. Literary satisfaction no longer lies in aesthetic contemplation but summons an active discursive and semantic quest.

12At the level of the short story, this quest leads the careful and educated reader on a search for references, quotations, generic subversions, rewritings, allusions. It starts with the titles themselves, Janet Frame’s Tiger, Tiger or Hecate you look angerly respectively point to William Blake’s “The Tyger” and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Jean Rhys’s “La Grosse Fifi”, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel” or “Pioneers, oh, Pioneers” echo Guy de Maupassant’s short story, the fairytale and Walt Whitman’s poem or even Willa Cather’s rewriting of Walt Whitman. The same happens in the bodies of the texts weighed down under a number of literary echoes which constantly put the reader on yet another literary track and indicate that the possibility of a single diegetic ending to the short story is unattainable unless the reader decides to take the text at face value and stop reading when reaching the final full stop. Yet, this is often discouraged by the authors, as in “The Bath” where Janet Frame states that “This is the end or the beginning of it” (183) thus hinting at a conception of the end as perpetual process more than stasis.

13Therefore, a single ending is denied to the short story by allowing new openings, new discursive breaches. It subtly abandons the normal reading direction akin to the syntagmatic axis in favour of a verticality akin to the paradigmatic axis that does not require any exclusive choice to be made by the author or the reader, and therefore allows a piling up of references that can be activated in turns or all at the same time to cause polyphony rather than concord. From a postcolonial perspective, we need to go back to the origins of the genre to make sense of this “participatory tale-telling”, as Maggie Awadalla and Paul March-Russell argue in their book on the postcolonial short story (2013). Indeed, as a genre derived from the folktale, a residue of its initial orality and composite nature might be located here, in this tacit necessity for the listener/reader to participate and interact with the text and its narrator.


14The idea of a conversation between texts is also at play internally in the collections of short stories themselves. In the case of Jean Rhys, they appear through the almost pathological rewriting of the same scenes often set in Parisian cafés or restaurants and narrated by single, friendless, undernourished alien females. Taking examples from her collections of short stories, we read in the story Mannequin:

Twelve o’clock. Déjeuner chez Jeanne Véron, Place Vendôme. Anna, dressed in the black cotton, chemise-like garment of the mannequin off duty was trying to find her way along dark passages and complicated flights of stairs... (31)

15In “In the Rue de l’Arrivée”, we read “Here, one evening at eleven o’clock, sat a Lady drinking her fourth fine à l’eau and thinking how much she disliked human beings in general and those who pitied her in particular” (50).

In “The Blue Bird,

On that afternoon Carlo and I sat in the Café du Dôme drinking kummel. […] Most of the women were ugly that afternoon. The unpainted faces looked bald and unfinished, the painted — ochre powder, shadowed eyelids, purple lips — were like cruel stains in the sunlight. (60)

16In Jean Rhys’s novels, characters share names: Anna is chosen for a number of pieces, as if this palindrome bore in itself the magical power to prevent endings from really ever actually happening, blocking the narrative at the level of but also beyond the scope of the short story itself in the collected works. Besides, the fact that the name Anna is also used in the novel Voyage in the Dark (1934) allows to draw links between short stories at the level of the whole thus patterning a form of seriality.

17It is crucial to note how hunger in Jean Rhys’s work constantly threatens to end the lives of her characters. It deeply contrasts with the narrator’s craving for literary and textual references as a means to allow the short story to survive when the female characters are at a loss and about to die of faim. Surely this homonymous play on fin/faim (ending/hunger) is deliberate, Jean Rhys being bilingual. Hunger describes the various, day by day steps taken by a starving body. While the narrator’s body is food deprived, language flourishes uncontrollably to the point that it breaks into aposiopeses which unfathomably threaten to devour the text:

But I have clung and made huge efforts to pull myself up. Three times I have… acquired resources. Means? Has she means? She has means. I have been a mannequin? I have been…

No good, any of it.

Well, you are doomed.

Once down you will never get up. Did anyone — did anybody, I wonder, ever get up… once down?


Had I been…SENSIBLE I should have hung on to being a mannequin with what it implies. As it is, I have struggled on, not cleverly. Almost against my own will. Don’t I belong to the land of Lost Causes… England…

If I had a glass of wine I would drink to that: the best of toasts:

To a Lost Cause: to All Lost Causes (Hunger 42-43)

18What is being said is contradicted by the unravelling mind of the starving narrator. He keeps speaking although spasmodically until silence breaks his speech three times in a row. Far from being final, silence resonates within the text. The frantic use of punctuation works against the staged and affected death of voice, against the grandiloquence of such concepts as the “Lost Cause”. The capitalized letters emphasize rhetorical emptiness. The excess of and almost ungrammatical use of colons (as in the last two sentences quoted above) gives the reader the impression of an attempt at structured discourse or logical demonstration that fails to happen and yet, the vast quantity of memories appearing in the gaps of the text actually allow a fictional framework to appear - as incomplete and patchy as it might be. The mystery around her position as a mannequin only helps the reader to grasp a sense of the understated: being a mannequin, being praised and paid for her mere beauty implies a prostitution of the self that is not without recalling other female narrators’ physical prostitution. The doubt remains, as the two ideas are grammatically reunited on the following line and under the pronoun “any”: “No good, any of it”. The period might grammatically and symbolically embody the end of a sentence, but in Jean Rhys’s text, it marks the beginning of an unstoppable process of sensible questioning of each and every word. Indeed, since the word “sensible” and the font in which it is transcribed literally and visually dominate the whole text, one might wonder about the actual amount of reason and reasoning masked by this so-called unreasonable, insensible narrator. Through what seems to be a cunning twist, the narrator manages to prod fiction-starving readers into locating the missing information that is denied and into sensibly weighing each and every bite of it.

  • 4 See Stacy Beller Stryer's: «While family and friends may think that anorexics are out of control an (...)

19The mental splitting of the narrator into separate entities that in turn use the “I”, “you” and “she” pronouns, is analogous to the first signs of a brutal psychical degradation (or decompensation, as psychological pathology calls it). They were caused by recurrent traumatic phases of undernourishment that both seem to restrain and yet regenerate the narrator’s story by rekindling alternative discourses. Indeed, and even though the female narrator progressively loses the ability to say “I”, she multiplies her authorial power through what develops as dialogical form. Starting from a famished “I”, the narrative voice progressively assumes internal and external focalizations, thus allowing the narrator to set herself into a superior authorial position. One last brief nod at psychiatry will incidentally remind us of the links between anorexia and the systematic pleasure derived from starvation, and, most importantly in our context, will also shed light on the obsession for control it entails. Indeed, the omnipresence and desire for omnipotence of the narrator echo the innumerable theories about anorexia as a strategy of control. 4 It also confirms the manipulative and ironic dimension of a text that manages to transform its voluntary fictional deficiencies into an encouragement toward fictional bulimia from part of the reader.

20In a very coherent way, when the narrator’s body is fed again, the text finally stops for good and concludes: “I have never gone without food for longer than five days, so I cannot amuse you any longer” (“Hunger” 44). Was this all only an amusement? If so, the reader might be trapped or be the victim of a plot meant to abolish the boundaries between author, narrator and the reader’s capacities to receive, produce and process fictional nutrients. Ironically, the following short story in the collection, entitled Discourse of a Lady Standing a Dinner to a Down-and-Out Friend answers the story “Hunger” by locating them both within a discursive relationship, thus further developing the organic dimension of Jean Rhys’s entire production and redefining textual and formal boundaries.

21The beginning of the story reads “Darling, I think you are simply wonderful. I always say, if I were in your place I’d go crazy…Have some more soup…Soup is so nourishing” (45), emphasizing the absurdity and superficiality of a discourse that tries to avoid the death, the end (la fin) of a character by feeding her soup. To play with semantics again, soup has to be understood in the French sense of soupe as slush- in this case, poorly written so-called feminine literature. Yet, by quoting and using her own work as a point of departure for another work, Jean Rhys subverts the notion of intertextuality and stages herself as “worth quoting” (worth ingesting?) as her own muse, thus unveiling the subtle introjective and introspective qualities of her prose. Following from what could be coined as literary auto-phagia, the author only needs to rely on her own body of work to decide whether or not she accepts the presence of the Other inside her own process of creation, or even to give her own definition of Otherness.

22The implicit limits of literary genres come to the fore in the short stories: are they an autobiography or a pastiche? Could those voices be participating in the writing of a feminist pamphlet? An apparently innocuous scarcity of words is combined with the suggestive power of silence. The narratives become blurred and melt to form a protean material that can be assembled, re-assembled, and combined into a variety of sequences voiced by a whole variety of narrators and successively comprehended by a wide range of readers.

Echoes from Virgina Woolf

23Janet Frame uses the same technique and creates several levels of discourse within short stories and between short stories. The 1965 short story entitled The Bath is a day in an elderly woman’s life. Apparently insignificant events are about to radically change her life. A sophisticated reader might find here an amusing resemblance with Virginia Woolf’s novel and is immediately confirmed by the first sentence of the story:

On Friday afternoon she bought cut flowers – daffodils, anemones, a few twigs of red-leaved shrub, wrapped in mauve waxed paper, for Saturday was the seventeenth anniversary of her husband’s death and she planned to visit his grave. (“The Bath,” You Are Now Entering the Human Heart, 180)

24The closeness to the beginning of Mrs. Dalloway is undeniable although subverted by the parodic presence of minor details (the triviality of “cut flowers, twigs and mauve waxed paper” is here opposed to V. Woolf’s concise and assertive “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”). Although the contexts differ — one is about to give a party, the other is about to visit her husband’s grave — both begin their day with a sense of unusual exhilaration. As the day unrolls, Janet Frame’s character incidentally named Mrs. Harroway -a nearly homophonous Other- has a bath, almost fails to get out of the bathtub and lies there in horror, contemplating the very possibility of her own death, knowing that no one would ever be able to hear her. Mrs Harroway is therefore obliged to visualise her own end in the warm and immersive space of the bath before realising that she has the strength to get out of this deceiving comfort.

25The same year, Janet Frame wrote another story that appears to work as a coda to “The Bath”. Entitled “Letter from Mrs John Edward Harroway”, it remained unpublished until the 2012 posthumous edition of Gorse is not the People in New Zealand, and Between my Father and the King in America. Both stories were never meant to be published jointly, as Janet Frame who died in 2004 never published “Letter from Mrs John Edward Harroway” herself, and left editorial instructions to be strictly followed after her death. This intensifies the author’s strong desire to stretch the discursive dimension of her literary pieces beyond the limits of a mere collection and nearly beyond human capacity to link two short stories released so wide apart in time. In the second story, the ending of the first story is completely undermined, for “The Bath” had closed on Mrs. Harroway’s contemplation of her own mortality and of death claiming her forever. The beginning of “Letter from Mrs John Edward Harroway” reads:

I hope you will forgive me but I wish to put you right on some matters. The first is, if you will again pardon me, that the thoughts you have said that I think are not my thoughts at all” and it ends thus “I hope that if you are going to write any more stories about me (and I rather you didn’t) you will tell the truth and not invent things.” (“Letter from Mrs John Edward Harroway”, You are now entering the Human Heart, 205)

  • 5 The short story “Jan Godfrey”, in The Lagoon and Other Stories plays on narratorial identification. (...)
  • 6 «A Beautiful Nature», and «On the Car» were published in The Lagoon and Other Stories and placed on (...)

26All of a sudden, the security and order that had been granted by the ending of “The Bath” is subverted by the presence of a second story with a different narrator, which invalidates all that has previously been said. What we initially thought was a projection of physical death in the first story turns out to lead to a form of narrative resurrection where the narrator is freed from the immersive filiation that was embodied by the enveloping bath-like omnipresence of Virginia Woolf and of Mrs Dalloway. The narrator reasserts her own identity and authority by amending the first version of her story, thus achieving her aims, in French, “pour arriver à ses fins”. Not only does this symbolically erase what had been written before, it also violently exposes the narrator as a liar. Worse, it does it posthumously. The unreliability of the narrative figure in Janet Frame’s work is well-known and surfaces in the co-existence of two authorial voices inside a single short story5, or in the dehumanizing co-mingling in texts and characters of a social and of a personal voice. 6 Based on this knowledge, one becomes aware of how “The Bath” sets in motion a necessary re-reading of Janet Frame’s texts in the light of this new crucial element. The thematic echoes which pattern a form of seriality, of sequences or even of sequels, are combined with the polyphonic effect created by interdiscursivity - whether by borrowing from other pieces of work, or by making references to other texts. They turn the short story as genre into an increasingly demanding reading exercise. Not only do readers need to be aware of intertextuality to fully grasp authorial intentions, but by dividing understanding and authority between literary creation and individual reception, readers also need to engage with stories whose epiphanies lie outside the limits of the text and of the collection, in a multi-referential, multi-layered and opaque textual beyond. The epiphanies in the postcolonial short stories studies here find themselves separated from and (dis)placed in another text, thus becoming the object of new textual creations whose “other halves” lies beyond their own limits, sometimes even in another collection.


  • 7 Editorial choices are relevant to our study. From its creation, Heinemann International has express (...)

27One may raise a last question on the topic of interdiscursivity which cannot be fully tackled if one does not take into account the more practical perspective of editorial politics. The case of Jean Rhys is enlightening in that respect since her stories were later (and independently from the initial collections) the object of thematic classification. In 1985, Heinemann International 7 issued a collection of short stories by Jean Rhys entitled Tales of the Wide Carribean, gathering all her stories about the West Indies. Obviously for first readers of Jean Rhys, such a collection has the advantage of presenting features that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. To a more Rhys-educated reader, this might contribute to a closer analysis of genre issues. Yet, the risk of a thematic grouping remains that of artificiality, for the question of intertextuality is always closely linked to that of public and private reception. Is a study of textual relations still possible if the main theme has been editorially pre-determined for the reader? More generally, is a collection of short stories always meant to be a collection? Is it conceived as such by the author, or by the publisher? Does it result from an authorial operation of text collecting? Every decision to tamper with the initial intended order of publication might result in loss or misrepresentation. At least one certainty remains about Janet Frame: through the fierce control she exercised over her publications even from beyond the grave, very little is left to chance. The example of the very late publication of the “Letter from Mrs. John Edwards Harroway” illustrates her will to stretch discursive relationships between her short stories over an exceedingly long period of time, thus pushing to the limits of literary analysis and discursive resolution, and pointing towards an ethical stance on literary ending. To journalists, (as quoted on the back cover of Gorse is Not the People) Janet Frame used to say that “posthumous publication was the only form of literary decency left”, and this statement seems consistent with her vision of literature and of ending(s) in literature long after the authorial voice, or voices, have been silenced.

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AWADALLA, Maggie and March-Russell, Paul. The Postcolonial Short Story: Contemporary Essays, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013.

BELLER STRYER, Stacy. Anorexia, Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 2009.

FRAME, Janet. The Lagoon and Other Stories, London: Bloomsbury, 1997 (1951).

FRAME, Janet. You Are Now Entering the Human Heart, London: The Women’s Press, 1984.

FRAME, Janet. Between my Father and the King, Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2012.

RHYS, Jean. The Collected Short Stories, New York: Norton & Company, 1987.

RHYS, Jean. Voyage in the Dark, London: Penguin Classics, 2000 (1934).

RHYS, Jean. Tales of the Wide Caribbean, London: Heinemann International, 1985.

MAY, Charles E., et al. The New Short Story Theories, Athens: Ohio University Press, 1994.

PATEA, Viorica., et al. Short Story Theories: a Twenty-First-Century Perspective, New York: Rodopi, 2012.

POE, Edgar Allan. The Raven and other Poems; preceded by The Philosophy of Composition, Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1920.

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1 See Viorica Patea, Short Story Theories: a Twenty-First-Century Perspective for an overview of the genre.

2 J. Joyce defined the notion as «a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of the gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself» (James Joyce, Stephen Hero, ed. Theodore Spencer, New York, New Directions, 1944, 51).

3 See Janet Frame’s A Note on the Russian War whose brevity forbids the forming of any plot. It resists the designation of short story and is closer to sketch and/or minimal prose.

4 See Stacy Beller Stryer's: «While family and friends may think that anorexics are out of control and worry that they are dangerously thin, anorexics feel completely “in control” and have a sense of achievement, possibly for the first time in their lives. […] Anorexics feel important and feel as if they are doing something worthwhile.» (80)

5 The short story “Jan Godfrey”, in The Lagoon and Other Stories plays on narratorial identification. The narrator Jan Godfrey writes a story about a girl named Alison Hendry («I am writing a story about a girl who is not me. I cannot prove she is not me. I can only tell you that her name is Alison Hendry»). Progressively, she blurs the borderline between herself and her character and puts an end to her text with an uncanny revelation: «My name is Alison Hendry».

6 «A Beautiful Nature», and «On the Car» were published in The Lagoon and Other Stories and placed one after the other. They rely on the merciless opposition between marginality and social judgement, disapproval and condemnation. In «A Beautiful Nature», the neighbours' judgmental attitude towards the intellectually challenged male character reveals the perversity of common social discourse which is echoed in «On the Car». The dialogue created between normality and marginality encourages the reader to pay closer attention to narratorial devices and choices, for authority and authoriality are never fully given and immediately disclosed by the author.

7 Editorial choices are relevant to our study. From its creation, Heinemann International has expressed an interest in publishing cross-cultural authors and/or books such as 1897 Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the Narcissus and Japanese translations of Fiodor Mikhaïlovitch Dostoyesvsky. Its pedagogical ambition was pursued through the publishing of bi-lingual versions of Greek and Latin works at the beginning of the 20th century and they still operate now – Heinemann UK being fully dedicated to the publication of educational resources. Interestingly enough, this branch also specialized, from the late 1950s, in the publication of African writers like Chinua Achebe. In 1966, it launched its Writing in Asia series, followed in 1970 by the Caribbean Writers Series which aimed at republishing major Caribbean literature. Publishing a collection of stories gathering Jean Rhys's Caribbean writing stems from a didactic strategy and a long-standing interest in so-called minor postcolonial literature.

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Elsa Lorphelin Blaise, « Ending(s), Seriality And Interdiscursivity  », Sillages critiques [En ligne], 24 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2018, consulté le 24 avril 2019. URL :

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Elsa Lorphelin Blaise

Lettres Sorbonne Université (VALE EA 4085)
Elsa Lorphelin Blaise enseigne en CPGE au Lycée Militaire de St Cyr l’Ecole et prépare à Sorbonne Université, sous la direction d’Alexis Tadié, une thèse intitulée « Intertextualité, interdiscursivité et autorité dans les nouvelles de Jean Rhys, Janet Frame et Anita Desai ». Elle est affiliée au laboratoire de recherche VALE EA4085, Lettres Sorbonne Université.
Elsa Lorphelin Blaise teaches first and second-year undergraduate studies at the Lycée Militaire of St-Cyr and is a doctoral candidate at Sorbonne University (“Intertextuality, interdiscursivity and authority in the short stories of Jean Rhys, Janet Frame and Anita Desai”, under the supervision of Alexis Tadié). She is affiliated to VALE, the research center of the English department at Sorbonne University.

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