Conrad and Empire

Conrad and Empire

Conrad and Empire

Conrad and Empire

Synopsis

In Conrad and Empire, Stephen Ross challenges the orthodoxy of the last thirty years of Conrad criticism by arguing that to focus on issues of race and imperialism in Conrad's work is to miss the larger and more important engagement with developing globalization undertaken there. Drawing on the conceptual model provided by Arjun Appadurai and by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Ross maintains that Conrad's major novels confront an emergent new world order that replaces nation-state-based models of geopolitics with the global rule of capitalism, and shows how Conrad supplements this conceptualization by tracing the concrete effects of such a change on the psyches of individual subjects. Borrowing from Slavoj Ž iž ek and Jacques Lacan, Ross contends that Conrad's major novels present us with an astute vision of a truly global world order. Devoting a chapter to each novel, the author analyzes Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo, and The Secret Agent to expose their social vision, their concern with individual experience, and their philosophical synthesis of the two. After showing how Conrad sets the stage, Ross considers selected characters' personal histories and the family romances by which Conrad sheds light on individual characters' motives, exposing the penetration of ideological forces into personal lives. The drama of slave morality synthesizes the novels' critique of social organization and their attention to personal history. Ross shows how each novel follows an individual character's doomed attempt to transcend the totalizing dimensions of Empire as it is chronicled by Conrad. Ross claims that though postcolonial criticisms of Conrad's work have produced excellentinsights, their inadequacy to understanding its complexity is no longer avoidable. Instead, Conrad's novels should be read for the compellingly prescient vision they offer of a postnational world under the sway of global ca

Excerpt

In the course of writing seventeen novels, three plays, two memoirs, and many stories between 1895 and 1924, Joseph Conrad anticipated the twentieth century's violent transition to global capitalism, the aggressively totalitarian tactics of fascism, the doublespeak George Orwell made famous as a tool of both fascist and democratic totalitarianism, the diminishing importance of government in the face of ever-expanding capitalist imperialism, and (most shockingly) the dehumanization attendant upon the establishment of a capitalist global hegemony. Yet despite this almost clairvoyant talent for social commentary Conrad also managed to produce some of the most compelling and penetrating of modern psychological tales. Frequently, he brought these two most-commented-on dimensions of his talent to bear in the same works. Such amazing breadth and depth of focus plays a large part in what makes Conrad continuingly relevant to us today, though it should perhaps not surprise us; Conrad's tumultuous childhood and romantic (when not morbidly self-conscious) adult life no doubt made him especially sensitive to the interpenetration of the political and the personal, the ideological and the psychological, in all aspects of life.

From earliest childhood, Conrad was intimately acquainted with the extent to which the personal and the political are continuous with each other rather than distinct realms. Born to Polish nationalist . . .

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