The Joseph Conrad Society of America Conference, University of British Columbia, August 2002

By Busza, Andrzej; Fraser, Gail et al. | Conradiana, Spring-Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

The Joseph Conrad Society of America Conference, University of British Columbia, August 2002


Busza, Andrzej, Fraser, Gail, Stape, J. H., Conradiana


The Conrad conference held under the rubric "Conrad and Territoriality" at the University of British Columbia on 16-18 August 2002 was another installment in a long dialogue about Conrad that began with the Canterbury Conference of 1974, marking the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Held before the birth of some of the participants in Vancouver, that conference led to the establishment of the Joseph Conrad Society (UK) and for the first time gave a sense of identity and scholarly community to Conrad scholars who, until then, had worked in isolation or known one another mostly through correspondence and in print. The other inspiration for the Vancouver conference lay in S. W. Reid's call in 1994 for conferences in North America outside the increasingly restrictive confines of the Modern Language Association's annual meetings, where young scholars found little opportunity to present their work. This call resulted in a memorable conference being held under his and Bruce Harkness's aegis at Kent State University in April 1995. Successful and well-attended conferences have followed at Drexel University in April 1997, hosted by Raymond T. Brebach; at Colgate University in August 1998, hosted by Neill R. Joy; and at Texas Tech University, hosted by Donald W. Rude, in August 2000.

Lacking any Conrad materials of interest to scholars, Vancouver's mountain-and-sea environment urged us to give our conference a unifying theme, emphasizing the various roles place plays in Conrad's oeuvre but generously interpreting "territoriality" so as to allow an opportunity for scholars investigating a variety of topics to present work-in-progress. While the conference thus encouraged a thematic focus, it also attempted to be heterogeneous and welcoming. The program (or programme given that this was in Canada) that was eventually put together testifies to the success of this dual aim. There was also a hope that international participation would assist in focusing attention on the goals set out, and in the event, the conference was truly international with participants coming from every continent but Australia and Antarctica.

Fifty-nine papers were presented in parallel sessions, and five plenary talks were given, an abundance that surpassed our initial ambitions and expectations.* The length and breadth of Conrad's canon was covered, a happy expansion of "territory," with papers ranging from Almayer's Folly to Last Essays. Indeed, no nook or cranny of "Conrad" now seems wholly neglected, so that in addition to the predictable interest in the works of the "major phase'--Lord Jim, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes, and that perennial conference favorite, "Heart of Darkness"--panels took into their purview An Outcast of the Islands, Chance, A Personal Record, The Rescue, The Rover, and Victory. Short fiction considered included "Il Conde," "The End of the Tether, "Freya of the Seven Isles," "Gaspar Ruiz," "Karain," and "Youth."

Comparative approaches suggested Conrad's wide influence, with papers focusing on Conrad and David Dabydeen, Christopher J. Koch (author of The Year of Living Dangerously), Primo Levi, V. S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Tayeb Salih, Soseki, and Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Sufficient interest allowed us to compose panels on Conrad and Ford Madox Ford and Conrad and Edmund Candler, while other topics included cross-cultural reception, textual studies, and historical, social, and literary contexts, including Conrad and Poland and Conrad and Russia. In addition to close attention to specific texts, various thematic territories were investigated and overarching approaches pursued. …

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