A Joseph Conrad Companion

A Joseph Conrad Companion

A Joseph Conrad Companion

A Joseph Conrad Companion

Synopsis

Best known as the author of Heart of Darkness (1899), Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) is one of the most widely taught writers in the English language. In addition to his novels, he wrote several pieces of short fiction, essays, and memoirs. He also wrote numerous letters, which help shed light on his troubled life and career. This reference book is a thorough guide to the entire body of his writings and to the experiences that helped generate them. A biographical chapter discusses research on Conrad's life and tells the story of his birth in a Ukrainian area of Poland under Czarist Russian rule, his sea career in France and England, his travels throughout Asia, South America, and Africa, and his maturation as a writer. The chapters that follow are written by expert contributors and explore each of his major works in detail. Other chapters explore his voluminous correspondence, his later novels, his short fiction, and other writings. Thus the volume provides those new to Conrad with essential biographical, bibliographical, and contextual information, while it simultaneously offers experienced readers of Conrad new critical perspectives.

Excerpt

The contributors to A Joseph Conrad Companion were invited to write essays that would be readable and useful to those who were new to Conrad studies, providing necessary biographical, bibliographic, and contextual information, and at the same time would provide the experienced reader of Conrad's work and Conrad scholarship with new critical perspectives, current issues, and ideas. It is almost impossible for readers coming to Conrad's work to know the vast body of criticism that has developed in the century since Conrad started his writing career. We hope that a comprehensive reference volume such as this will be valuable for those who are interested in reading about Conrad's life or one or two of his works, or for those readers interested in scholarship on the entire body of his writings.

All of the chapters in A Joseph Conrad Companion were written specifically for this volume, but each critic was allowed to follow his or her own direction, approach, or method. There is a felicitous mixture of perspectives, ideas, and styles. Since the volume traces chronologically through the entirety of Conrad's career, there is often reaction against or conformity to the traditional "achievement and decline" model of Conrad's career. This model finds an "apprentice stage" (1895-1899), a "major phase" (1900-1910), and the "decline," a sudden falling off in the quality and complexity of his work (1911-1924). Despite recent critical attempts to make bold attacks on this perception, it must be confessed at the outset that this book is structured along those lines of argument. The works that have entire chapters devoted to them (such as Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and Under Western Eyes) fall within the "major phase," while the chapters that have more than one Conrad work within their purview belong to the traditional "apprentice stage" or the "decline." In a pleasing symmetry, the first two chapters, on biography and on Conrad's . . .

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