IN MEMORIAM: Thomas C. Moser (1923-2016)

By Armstrong, Paul B. | Joseph Conrad Today, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

IN MEMORIAM: Thomas C. Moser (1923-2016)


Armstrong, Paul B., Joseph Conrad Today


Thomas C. Moser, eminent Conradian and emeritus professor of English at Stanford University, died on June 9, 2016, at his home on the Stanford campus from complications after a bout of pneumonia. He was 92.

Best known in the Conrad world for his book Joseph Conrad: Achievement and Decline (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1957), Moser was also the editor of the first and second Norton Critical Editions of Lord Jim (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968, 1996).

Moser's lifelong contributions to Conrad studies were recognized in 2002 with the bestowal of the Ian P. Watt Award by the Joseph Conrad Society of America. He was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979 and an American Council for Learned Societies Fellowship in 1963.

Moser's claim that Conrad's artistic achievement peaked in 1912 with the publication of "The Secret Sharer" (which he called "the last first-rate Conrad") and then declined with the serialization of Chance ("the first clearly secondrate book," in Moser's view) continues to spark debate among Conrad scholars. While some readers may disagree with Moser's specific evaluations, his description of the arc of Conrad's artistic career became a standard interpretation with which subsequent critics and biographers have felt it necessary to reckon.

"It is indeed difficult to conquer the impulse to find greatness in all the works of a man we sense to be the greatest," Moser observed; "yet this impulse is pernicious" because it obscures what is genuinely valuable in his work: "And to be deaf to the true Conrad is to be deprived of one of the finest voices in our literature: pessimistic, skeptical, ironic-but also courageous, sympathetic, profoundly human."

Moser praised the "stoic humanism" that he found most effectively expressed in such works as Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, and Nostromo from Conrad's early, intense period of concentrated achievement. But he also pointed out flaws in Conrad's style that seemed especially acute when he was "writing about love" or "dealing with sexual situations." These judgments set the stage for decades of subsequent debate about Conrad's treatment of women and heterosexual romance.

Moser was a psychoanalytically-minded biographical critic at a time when the New Criticism insisted that attention to the author's life and historical circumstances necessarily detracted from an appreciation of intrinsic artistic values. Dissenting from this view, Moser argued that an understanding of a writer's artistic accomplishments could be enhanced by an analysis of the relation between a work and its psycho-biographical contexts.

This assumption informs his pathbreaking study The Life in the Fiction of Ford Madox Ford (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980) which, as Moser pointed out, "uses fiction to explain life, life to explain fiction, thus constantly violating the critical dogma of our time." Claiming that Ford's "career as a writer was unusual because he was," Moser argued that this notoriously uneven writer's unique, idiosyncratic achievement was inextricably bound up with flaws attributable to sometimes debilitating, even crippling psychological problems.

As with his earlier study of Conrad, questions about aesthetic quality motivated Moser's exploration of the relation between art and life. The radical inconsistency in the quality of Ford's too-prolific writing made Moser turn for explanations to psychology and biography, and he offered analyses of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of Ford's art that are based on interpretations of his tortured, chaotic relations with the women and men in his life (especially his friends Arthur Marwood and Conrad, a mentor who found the younger man's behavior sometimes exasperating).

Interdisciplinary in his critical approach by instinct and before this was fashionable, Moser felt that artistic creation was a deeply human process in which the sources of inspiration as well as the obstacles that hindered accomplishment were almost inevitably psychological, unconscious, and irrational. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

IN MEMORIAM: Thomas C. Moser (1923-2016)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.