26 Mar 2024
5:30 - 6:30

Inaugural Lecture CLIC Lorand Chair in Intermediality Studies

The inaugural lecture of this year’s Lorand Chair in Intermediality Studies, Prof. Bénédicte Ledent, will take place at Muntpunt on Tuesday 26 March 2024.

The Lineage of Madness in Caribbean Literature

Mental distress has often been represented in fiction by writers from the Caribbean and its diaspora. This is not surprising given the violent history of the region, which includes slavery, indenture and migration, all traumatic events which have deeply affected individual psyches. The focus of this lecture will be on the psychological suffering experienced by Caribbean characters who move to the centre of the British Empire in the 19th and 20 th centuries and are faced there with othering and marginalization. Starting from the work of Dominican Jean Rhys and her by now classic depiction of the madwoman in the attic in Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), the discussion will move on to the work of Anglo-Kittitian Caryl Phillips. I will show that Phillips’s writing responds to Rhys’s in several ways, including via their common interest in the writing of the Brontë sisters, who are famous for exploring female insanity in the Victorian age. An overview of the literary lineage between Phillips and Rhys will trace how their work destabilizes traditional taxonomies of race and gender (as Carine Mardorossian has showed in relation to Jean Rhys), but also how these two writers manage to question the divide between madness and sanity.

Bénédicte Ledent is CLIC Lorand Chair in Intermediality Studies at Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 2023-2024 and honorary professor from the University of Liège, where she taught anglophone literatures until 2021 and directed the postcolonial research group CEREP from 2009 to 2019. Her research interests include Caribbean and Black British literatures, biographical fiction, slavery novels as well as the representation of madness in literature. She has published extensively on the work of Caryl Phillips and other contemporary writers of the Caribbean diaspora. She is co-editor, with Delphine Munos, of the book series Cross/Cultures (Brill). Her most recent publication is an edited collection of Caryl Phillips’s radio plays (Methuen, 2023).

© Dominic Winter Auctioneers - Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, 1st edition, 1966

© Dominic Winter Auctioneers - Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, 1st edition, 1966