Rereading Conrad

Rereading Conrad

Rereading Conrad

Rereading Conrad

Synopsis

Leading Conradian scholar Daniel R. Schwarz assembles his work from over the past two decades into one crucial volume, providing a significant reexamination of a seminal figure who continues to be a major focus in the twenty-first century. Schwarz touches on virtually all of Joseph Conrad's work including his masterworks and the later, relatively neglected fiction.

In his introduction and in the persuasive and insightful essays that follow, Schwarz explores how the study of Conrad has changed and why Conrad is such a focus of interest in terms of gender, postcolonial, and cultural studies. He also demonstrates how Conrad helps define the modernist cultural tradition.

Exploring such essential works as Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo, and "The Secret Sharer," Schwarz addresses issues raised by recent theory, discussing the ways in which contemporary readers, including, of course, himself, have come to read Conrad differently. He does so without abandoning crucial Conradian themes such as the disjunction between interior and articulated motives and the discrepancies between dimly acknowledged needs, obsessions, and compulsions and actual behavior.

Schwarz also touches on the extent to which Conrad's conservative desires for a few simple moral and political ideas were often at odds with his profound skepticism. A powerful close reader of Conrad's complex texts, Schwarz stresses how from their opening paragraphs Conrad's works establish a grammar of psychological, political, and moral cause and effect.

Rereading Conrad sheds new light on an author who has spoken to readers for over a century. Schwarz's essays take account of recent developments in theory and cultural studies, including postcolonial, feminist, gay, and ecological perspectives, and show how reading Conrad has changed in the face of the theoretical explosion that has occurred over the past two decades. Because for over three decades Schwarz has been an important figure in defining how we read Conrad and in studying modernism, including how we respond to the relationship between modern literature and modern art, scholars, teachers, and students will take great pleasure in this new collection of his work.

Excerpt

Rereading Conrad is a collection of my essays on Conrad written after my Conrad: [Almayer's Folly] to [Under Western Eyes] (1980) and Conrad: the Later Fiction (1982). This collection touches on virtually the entire canon, but the focus is on the masterworks to which I have returned in my writing, often in response to invitations to lecture or to contribute to a volume. in the essays that follow I write as teacher in the interrogative spirit of [This is true, isn't it?] Often I stress the pedagogical issues with the hope of sharing with colleagues and students my experience as a teacher of Conrad for thirty-five years.

Why, no matter what the critical fashion, has Conrad spoken to readers for a century? If it is in large part his psychological subtlety and political complexity, it is also because we recognize on every page parallels to both our private lives and our public reality. We recognize our reality in his ironic skepticism toward all dogma. Conrad always writes as the outsider, the marginalized figure who does not quite belong. For example, in Under Western Eyes (1911) he sees the peculiar parallel between the solitary and lonely betrayer, Razumov, and the fastidious Western language teacher and narrator. With a perspective that anticipates contemporary views of cultural production, he also understands the difference between the rationality and morality of Western democracy and the fanaticism and cynicism produced by Russian autocracy. He understands how politics is a mosaic of individual motives. Rereading Nostromo (1904), we see how each person projects his or her own expectations and desires upon the Italian chief of the cargadores who has been given by others the title that translates as [our man,] although Nostromo is virtually anonymous and has only the vaguest hints of a personal past or national identity. How other characters give meaning to Nostromo anticipates the way we attribute values to sports heroes, actors, and rock stars about whom we know nothing. At times life imitates art. the disjunction between the Goulds' public stature and their dysfunctional private life—Charles Gould obsessed with wrenching silver from the mines; his wife caught in the sterile formal-

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