The Strange Short Fiction of Joseph Conrad: Writing, Culture, and Subjectivity

The Strange Short Fiction of Joseph Conrad: Writing, Culture, and Subjectivity

The Strange Short Fiction of Joseph Conrad: Writing, Culture, and Subjectivity

The Strange Short Fiction of Joseph Conrad: Writing, Culture, and Subjectivity

Synopsis

This study engages with the troubled question of authorial subjectivity and ethics in Modernism in general and in Conrad's short fiction in particular, and offers an original theoretical perspective, inspired by the work of Derrida and the early philosophical writings of M. M. Bakhtin. Part One of the book focuses on the relational dynamics in 'Under Western Eyes' and 'The Secret Sharer', and develops a 'heterobiographical' reading matrix, which serves as a psycho-textual and philosophical approach to modes of authorial presence in the text. Part Two offers close readings of ten short stories spanning the whole of Conrad's career and clustered into five chapters--'Writing and Fratricide', 'The Pathos of Authenticity', 'The Poetics of Cultural Despair', 'The Romantic paradox', and 'Addressing the Woman'. This part of the book engages with the interpretative problems posed by these stories through a cultural-historical perspective, linking Conrad's essentially Romantic sensibility and his unique position on the threshold of Modernism with some of the issues that have emerged from the 'Postmodern turn': the relationship between metaphysics and subjectivity, the conception of inter-subjectivity as prior to and constitutive of subjectivity; the permeability of textual and psychological boundary-lines; and the desire for subjective aesthetization. These issues, which can all be traced back to the cultural crisis of the turn of the century, are still with us at the close of the millennium.

Excerpt

Shortly before the completion of the first draft of this study, I received a strange and wonderful gift. It was a little note sent by Conrad to an anonymous recipient; 'Dear Sir, thanks for the papers which have reached me today. Yours faithfully, J. Conrad.' The casual, undated little message, scribbled on a page torn out of a notebook, and signed with a flourish at the other end of the century, was given to me by John Crompton, a fellow reader of Conrad's work. The intensity of my own response, both to the generous gesture and to the letter itself, took me by surprise. Having been academically brought up to believe in the death of the author, I had never suspected myself of what may well be described as an intellectualized form of idolatry. But the yellowing page with its frayed edges has become very precious to me. It has served, somehow, to ratify the motives which had prompted me to engage once again with Conrad's work. In Joseph Conrad and the Modern Temper ( Oxford University Press, 1991), I dealt with Conrad's major novels, clustered into modes of response to the cultural crisis of the turn of the century. With one exception, I have kept the authorial subject well out of it. The present study, concerned with questions of writing, culture, and subjectivity in Conrad's short fiction, is in one obvious sense a sequel to the previous effort, an extension of the corpus under discussion. In another less obvious but more important sense, it is the return of the repressed subject, or -- to keep to the initial trope -- a return to where the corpus/body is buried. The qualifying adjective 'strange' in the title of the volume requires some sort of gloss. Not all of Conrad's short fiction deserves this tag. Some of it was clearly written with an eye to the popular market, with surprisingly little anxiety (by a writer whose epistolary agonizing over his novels often bordered on pathology), and is often trivial, banal, or disappointingly formulaic. There are, however, a number of short stories which are indeed strange; which do not seem to lend themselves to . . .
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.