Conrad in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Approaches and Perspectives

Conrad in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Approaches and Perspectives

Conrad in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Approaches and Perspectives

Conrad in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Approaches and Perspectives

Synopsis

Reading Conrad Now is a collection of original essays by leading Conrad scholars that rereads Conrad in light of his representations of post-colonialism, of empire, imperialism, and of modernism and modernity-questions that are once again relevant today. The collection is framed by an introduction by J. Hillis Miller, one of the most important literary critics today, and a concluding extensive interview with Edward Said (one of his final interviews before his death on September 25, 2003), the most prominent postcolonial critic-addressing his lifelong fascination with Conrad. Reading Conrad Now will be essential reading for anyone seeking a contemporary introduction to this great writer, and will be of great interest to scholars working with Conrad in a variety of fields including literary studies, cultural studies, ethnic and area studies, and postcolonial studies.

Excerpt

This book contains a dazzling series of essays about Joseph Conrad. I have read them with immense interest. They have changed my understanding of Conrad in manifold ways. They have made me see. They have also sent me back to Conrad's books with an eager desire to re-read for myself, with fresh eyes, some works I have not read for a long time, for example, Victory and “Typhoon.” It is an honor to be allowed to have a word here at the beginning. A foreword is preliminary in the etymological sense of coming before the threshold. A foreword is a word that comes before the real words. It prepares the reader for them. It opens the door to hearing them, as from an anteroom outside the room where the concert is going on. I will try to obey the laws of this genre.

The essays in Conrad in the Twenty-First Century appear, at least at first, to be extremely diverse. They discuss in one way or another most of Conrad's major works, both novels and stories. Little is said about Chance, for some reason, nor about The Arrow of Gold, for which I have a soft spot, perhaps because I came to it so late. It was Chance that Henry James praised for manifesting what he saw as Conrad's chief characteristic and mode of excellence. Conrad, said James, was “a votary of the way to do a thing that shall make it undergo the most doing” (James 147). Chance exemplifies this in Marlow's “prolonged hovering flight of the subjective over the outstretched ground of the case exposed” (James 149). The critical methodologies employed in the essays in this book are quite diverse, though James's critical vocabulary is more or less foreign to them. Most of the viable present-day modes of criticism are represented here: cultural studies, postcolonial studies, feminist criticism, Freudian and Lacanian criticism, even rhetorical and deconstructive criticism. One use for this book: It is an admirable introduction to these various approaches, not through abstract description, but as examples of reading methods put concretely to work.

In spite of this diversity, however, something like an unstated consensus is present throughout, with a few exceptions. All are singing somewhat the same tune, or variations on it. All agree that the goal of literary study still today is to account for literary works, to explain them, to rationalize them, to justify them, to incorporate them within the discourse of the academic interpretative

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