Modernity at Sea: Melville, Marx, Conrad in Crisis

By Cesare Casarino | Go to book overview

The Sea of Modernity; or,
The Nineteenth-Century
Narrative as Heterotopian Discourse:
An Introduction

This could have occurred nowhere but in England, where men and sea interpenetrate, so to
speak—the sea entering into the life of most men, and the men knowing something or
everything about the sea, in the way of amusement, of travel, or of bread-winning.

Joseph Conrad, Youth


The Argument

THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY SEA NARRATIVE constituted a crucial laboratory for that crisis that goes by the name of modernity. Modernity at Sea aims to produce the concept of this laboratory, in which a new historical era was problematized, that is, was turned into a problem for thought. This laboratory concerned itself with two distinct and indiscernible sets of experiments: the nineteenth-century sea narrative proliferated, on the one hand, forms of representation of modernity and, on the other hand, conceptual-affective and conceptual-perspective constellations that resisted both modernity and representation. The nineteenth-century sea narrative came into being as the interference between these two experiments, as the spatio-temporal matrix of the crisis of modernity.

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