Academic journal article Joseph Conrad Today

Joseph Conrad Society of America: Panel at MLA 2018

Academic journal article Joseph Conrad Today

Joseph Conrad Society of America: Panel at MLA 2018

Article excerpt

Conrad's Politics of Fear

New York, NY, 6 January 2018

Presider: David Mulry

Respondent: John G. Peters

Despite a "bomb cyclone" of snow dropping temperatures in New York City to record lows and canceling thousands of flights, the JCSA panel at the 2018 MLA Convention in New York City proceeded undaunted. Entitled Conrad's Politics of Fear, it featured four speakers who each explored in timely topic from different angles. Jarica Watts (Brigham Young University, Utah) gave a paper entitled "Submerged by Fear: The Politics of Wartime Hysteria in Conrad and Conan Doyle" that showed how, contrary to accusations of political detachment, Conrad was deeply engaged with his political moment and offered a powerful mediating voice in the discussion of submarine warfare. Unlike Conan Doyle, who played into the propagandizing of fear, Conrad sought to cultivate in his audience a more nuanced reaction that could legitimize fear of real dangers while concurrently showing how easily such fears could lose touch with concrete reality and take on a life of their own-both in an individual and as propaganda. Then James Patrick Brophy (Boston University) spoke on "Autonomy and Arendtian Cliché: Reading Banality and Monstrosity in Conrad's Secret Agent." Deftly arguing for Conrad's Arendtian sensibilities, Brophy turned our attention to the seductively recursive languages depicted and exploded by the narrative. As he put it, "While Arendt's explorations of language reveal a fundamental banality in one of the most obvious monstrosities of the twentieth century, Nazism, Conrad does the equally urgent inverse: he shows that there is the possibility of monstrosity in the banal, daily, abrogations of autonomy to the ideologically ready-made. …

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