The interior: Benjaminian arcades, Conradian passages, and the ‘impasse’ of Jean Rhys CHRIS GOGWILT
In what follows I explore the relevance of Benjamin’s dialectical grasp of bourgeois interior space for the fiction of Joseph Conrad and Jean Rhys. Particularly relevant are two works not often considered central to each writer’s oeuvre: Conrad’s The Shadow-Line: A Confession (1917), and Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight (1939). This constellation of texts affords, on the one hand, a study in contrasts: between the Conradian narrative of masculine adventure on the open seas and the Rhysian narrative of female entrapment in metropolitan capital cities. More important than providing an instance of the different geographical experiences of modernity, however, is the shared problem of identity that links the geography of interior space in Benjamin’s arcades, Conrad’s sea passages and Rhys’s urban topography. All three, I argue, turn on an impossibility of white racial identification registered in the eclipsed bourgeois ideal of the private interior.