Critical Approaches to Joseph Conrad

Critical Approaches to Joseph Conrad

Critical Approaches to Joseph Conrad

Critical Approaches to Joseph Conrad

Synopsis

Critical Approaches to Joseph Conrad is a collection of essays directed to both new and experienced readers of Conrad. The book takes into account recent developments in literary theory, including the prominence of ecocriticism, ecopostcolonial approaches, and gender studies. Editor Agata Szczeszak-Brewer offers a comprehensive and comprehensible introduction to Conrad's most popular texts, also addressing the most recent academic debates as well as the conversations about narrative and genre in Conrad's canon.Students and scholars of Conrad, twentieth-century literature, and modernism will appreciate the clear, accessible prose by nineteen internationally recognized contributors who approach Conrad in different ways, from postcolonial and ecocritical perspectives, through explorations of gender, to psychoanalysis, narrative theory, and political analysis. Beginning with a biographical introduction by Szczeszak-Brewer, the collection offers an essay outlining the cultural and historical contexts that influenced Conrad's fiction and an essay on reception of Conrad's work.Following that, contributors provide critical approaches to Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, The Secret Sharer, and Under Western Eyes. In these sections scholars offer insights about complex issues in Conrad's fiction, ranging from the study of specific literary tools and narrative development in his books to the political theories in Conrad's portrayal of the threat of terrorism and violent revolutions.

Excerpt

Joseph Conrad does not go out of style. Despite the controversy surrounding Heart of Darkness and the debate about racism in Conrad’s depiction of Africa, or maybe because of that dispute, Conrad occupies a prominent spot in literature curricula and scholarly conversations. Could his guardians, concerned about young Joseph’s less-than-stellar school performance and his cigar habit, predict that this defiant son of a Polish revolutionary would become one of the most prominent authors in the British canon? That almost ninety years after his death, his fiction would still be debated, not only at professional conferences and in classrooms, but on the public radio? In 2009, National Public Radio aired Robert Siegel’s interview with Chinua Achebe, one of Conrad’s fiercest critics. Listening to Siegel’s “All Things Considered,” I was struck by how contemporary and relevant Conrad’s fiction, including the famous (or infamous?) novella, still is. Achebe insists in the interview that “the language of description of the [African] people in Heart of Darkness is inappropriate.” At that time, I was pondering whether to include Heart of Darkness in my undergraduate course’s reading list. I thought of other critics who still disagree with Achebe’s claim. I thought of intense and engaged debates in my classroom on this very topic whenever I taught the novella. And I decided to include the book in my syllabus.

Aware that most of my undergraduate students would be reading Conrad for the first time, I wanted to give them resources outlining his life, the cultural and historical context of his fiction, and sample critical essays written in a comprehensible language and inviting first-time readers of Conrad to a conversation. It would be helpful, I thought, if those essays came from a diverse group of scholars, emphasizing not only Conrad’s global reach, but also representing a wide range of responses to his texts. I managed to create a patchwork of critical materials in a makeshift course-work file. It was stunning, though, that among . . .

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