Abstracts

(listed alphabetically by name)

 

Gönül Bakay

Beykent University, Istanbul

Lord Jim: A Hero or a Coward?

One of the main problems the book presents is the problem of Lord Jim’s death. How can the reader interpret Jim’s death? Does he share Ian Watt’s views that he “died for his honour”? Or does he believe in Tony Tanner’s view that Jim’s death is “an easy way out” or an escape from life’s complication ? Does he share with Conroy the view that he died “essentially in disgrace” because he abandoned Jewel and knew that he was leaving Patusan for renewed political chaos? Perhaps one can conclude that Jim has been true to the deepest impulses of his personality and to the uneasy contradictions that constitute his nature. Perhaps his death can explained, as J. H. Stape puts it, in terms of “a desire to evade compromise and contingency , and thus a longing for the release that can be found only in death.” It is not the events themselves but our reaction to events that determines their effect on us. So it is the reader’s reaction to Jim’s death that will determine whether he can be regarded a hero or a coward.

 

 

Susan Barras

Sussex, England

“Sly Civility”: Mrs Almayer’s Performance of Colonial Resistance in Almayer’s Folly

This paper is based on James C Scott’s ideas (derived from Erving Goffman’s theory of frontstage and backstage performances in everyday life) about the ways in which “subordinates” (the colonized) employ impression management to conceal their “hidden transcript of indignation” in the presence of their colonial “masters.” It demonstrates how Mrs Willems and Mrs Almayer create ambiguous roles for themselves through which they can protest about their treatment by their colonial “masters” (their husbands, Willems and Almayer) whilst at the same time appearing to remain within the boundaries of acceptable female behaviour laid down by Malay society. The paper argues that these women’s frontstage performances also include the use of the Malay phenomenon called “latah” (spirit possession) to express a coded version of their hostility and indignation whilst simultaneously appearing to conform with the public transcript.

 

 

Katherine Isobel Baxter

The British Library, London

The Literary Collaboration of Romance

Despite the importance placed on the historical, political, and ironic, modes of Conrad’s writing, romance pervades much of it. A perfect instance of this is can be found in the eponymous hero of Conrad’s great political/historical novel: Nostromo is a figure straight out of romance, and in particular, out of Romance, since he is weirdly prefigured by the charismatic bard, Manuel de Populo. Romance provides us with the opportunity to explore the relevance of romance to Conrad’s work; it contains numerous overt and covert allusions to the European literary tradition of romance, including references to Byron, Don Quixote, and echoes of Scott, in the portions normally attributed to Ford. The insistent repetition of the term “romance” itself throughout the whole novel demands that the reader contemplate its aesthetic qualities as a romance: we are not to read it simply because it is a romance (its subject matter and plot are clear enough) but as a romance engaging with a grand European tradition.

 

 

Martin Bock

University of Minnesota Duluth

Joseph Conrad and Germ Theory

This paper would briefly summarize the history of the emergence and popularization of germ theory in the latter 19th century, trace Conrad’s preoccupation with sanitation and infection (and how his maritime career and personal health my explain this preoccupation), and outline his portrayal of contagious disease from Outcast through The Shadow-Line. I will begin with a discussion of Willems (born in Rotterdam!) as an example of malarial neurasthenia, a condition from which Conrad may have been thought to suffer and one that suggests the close connection between the will, physical, and psychological health. A discussion of The Nigger of the “Narcissus” will 1) speculate on why the “diagnosis” of tuberculosis is never explicitly stated and how social class may account for this “omission” from the text; 2) discuss evidence and foreshadowing of contagion in the text and who, in addition to Wait, might be infected; and 3) trace the metaphoric resonance of disease and contagion, especially in relation to the story’s political themes. After suggesting how disease and “pestilence” is developed in the ideological themes of The Secret Agent, I will focus on The Shadow-Line. In this later novel, Conrad returns to earlier Victorian theories of disease (popular in the late 1880s) such as miasmal infection and the relation of bodily health to the exercise of will. The paper will close with a summary of the importance of contagion as a metaphor linked, in Conrad’s fiction, to his political, psychological, and moral themes.

 

 

Christopher Cairney

Doğuş University, Istanbul

“Those Dutchmen are all alike”:

Race Relations and Biopsychology in Conrad’s “Karain”

Despite the aesthetics of a good story set in a country far away, many scholars seem drawn, implicitly or explicitly, into arguments about Conrad’s relation to Imperialism, or colonialism, because of the time and setting of many of his stories. The simplistic view is that he is either guilty of “sin” or innocent of the charge of racism. Achebe and Said, for instance, famously see him as a racist, more or less, while Najder and others feel that he is not, or moreover that he is not writing about “the Orient” at all, but about Europe. MacKenzie and Donovan have put forward other views. But Conrad’s story “Karain” seems a good place to problematize with the results of the usual “Heart of Darkness” arguments, since Marlow’s sympathetic but decidedly etic perspective in the novella is replaced in the short story by Karain’s constructed faux-emic one.

 

 

Keith Carabine

University of Kent

“Poor Conrad”: Conrad, Rothenstein, Newbolt, and The Royal Bounty Fund, 1905

A variety of people (among them Jessie Conrad, Henry James, and Archibald Marshall) referred to Conrad as “poor Conrad”; but this paper concentrates on William Rothenstein who used the epithet because 1) he “was always in difficulty over money”; 2) “he suffered much from gout”; 3) “he strained after an unattainable standard of perfection”; and 4) “his nerves sometimes made him aggressive.” Rothenstein was the instigator of an appeal led by Edmund Gosse to the Royal Bounty Fund, which granted Conrad the maximum award of £500. My paper will concentrate on the extraordinary consequences of this award which greatly offended Conrad, leading to a round of letters between Rothenstein and Henry Newbolt (the beleaguered trustees), Gosse, and Conrad.

 

 

Mario Curreli

Università di Pisa

Was Cloete a Dutchman? Four Different Ways of Telling a Story in Within the Tides

Conrad was well aware that the four tales collected in Within the Tides cannot aspire to the unity of artistic purpose of the Youth volume, as they do not constitute an organic whole. In fact, as he wrote to Galsworthy, these tales are not so much art as a “financial operation.”  Even so, these minor productions can be of some value to the reader, since, as Conrad stated in several letters, their diversity of setting, subject, and treatment offers an interesting essay in craftsmanship as a deliberate attempt at four different ways of telling a story.

 

 

Laurence Davies

Dartmouth College / University of Glasgow

Rattling the Cage: Conrad, Nicolas Freeling, and the Metaphysics of Crime

What better time or place to consider the presence of Conrad in the work of Nicolas Freeling than a conference in Amsterdam? English by birth, Irish by education, French by family connection, Freeling was working as a chef in Amsterdam when he fell foul of the Dutch legal system for having helped himself from the kitchen. His experiences in jail so fascinated him that he began to write what are known to aficionados as police procedurals. Roughly a third of his thirty or so novels are set in the Netherlands, the rest in France. Most of these works contain some allusion to Conrad, more frequently a Conradian motif, or even a Conrad intertext; Valparaiso, for example, is an homage to The Rover. Conrad also features in Freeling’s culinary books, and above all in Criminal Convictions, his investigation of the metaphysics of criminal fiction, which takes as its main subjects authors such as Conrad, Dickens, and Stendhal. Freeling had no patience with either those devotees of the genre who insist on conformity to a series of hobbling structural requirements or those who profess to defend literary fiction by relegating such stories, whatever their artistic strengths, to outer darkness. Literary misbehaviour, the turning upside down of formal expectations appealed to Freeling, as it did to Conrad, the former rattling the bars of the generic cage from within, the latter from without. Both these writers can be seen as vital figures in the evolution of a specifically European mode of writing about criminal activity, its ethics, its politics, its social context, its metaphysics. To quote Freeling: “The matter... and the theme of the crime novel are death and destruction – the ruin of the body and the distortion of the soul. Vital: central to our existence.”

 

 

Stephen Donovan

Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrone

Conrad and the Rogue Wave

Last year, researchers at MaxWave, a project affiliated with the European Space Agency, announced that they had made a startling discovery using satellite imaging of a 200 sq. km quadrant of the South Atlantic ocean. Previously thought to be exceptional events that occurred only once in a millenium, freak waves exceeding 25 metres in height were found to be regular and indeed relatively common features of the ocean. During the very three-week period of their survey, and in uncanny confirmation of the research team’s findings, two large cruisers, the Bremen and the Caledonian Star, were both struck by 30-metre waves in the South Atlantic and only narrowly escaped sinking. The discovery has prompted a major revision to the Linear Model upon which ocean wave movement has hitherto been calculated as well as to ship and oil platform design. Moreover, and presumably thanks in part to the thematizing of monster waves in films such as The Perfect Storm (2000), Billabong Odyssey (2003), and The Day After Tomorrow (2004), the phenomenon has received extensive coverage in national media in countries ranging from South Africa to Sweden, reminding us of the sea’s enduring power to capture the public imagination. This paper presents an analysis of Joseph Conrad’s several treatments of rogue waves in his fiction and prose. Presenting modern photographs of the phenomenon as well as an engraving of the Juno foundering in very heavy seas, published in Wędrowiec, his favourite boyhood magazine, it argues that the monster wave exercised a life-long fascination over Conrad, who, in turn, assigned it a precise status in his writing somewhere between maritime legend and sailors’ secret.

 

 

Linda Dryden

Napier University, Edinburgh

H. G. Wells and Joseph Conrad: A Literary Friendship

A reference to “The Heart of Darkness” in H. G. Wells’s When the Sleeper Wakes: Story of Years to Come (1899) is an example of self-conscious intertextuality on Wells’s part; when it comes to Conrad, much more subtle Wellsian influences are seen to come into play. In his Preface to The Nigger of the “Narcissus, Conrad makes a direct riposte to Wells’s criticism of the obfuscations in An Outcast of the Islands. In other examples in “Heart of Darkness” we can detect parallels with Wells’s The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds. This paper traces some of the literary allusions that imply an acknowledgement of Wells’s art and criticism in Conrad’s work, especially in “Heart of Darkness.” Further, a sense of the zeitgeist that surrounded the emergence of literary modernism can be glimpsed in the debates about artistic style and vision that Conrad and Wells engaged in. Such a discussion brings to light a more intimate understanding of the difference in artistic vision that ultimately undermined this literary friendship.

 

 

Jérôme R. Ensch

University of Kent

The Community in the Narcissus

The paper focuses on the community on board the Narcissus and analyses the complex and subtle power relations between Wait and the crew. The first part deals with notions of solidarity and how the crew is amalgamated. However it equally deals with the omniscient themes of pity and compassion which represent a threat to the integrity of the community. The second part investigates the disturbances which threaten to unhinge the solidarity on board the ship, and focuses in particular on Donkin, Belfast, and Wait.

 

 

Hugh Epstein

London

“The fitness of things”: Conrad’s English Irony in “Typhoon” and The Secret Agent

The main thrust of the paper is to find some links in Conrad’s development as an English writer in the sort of comic irony that he first uses (in my opinion) in “Typhoon,” his most thoroughgoing sea fiction, and develops in The Secret Agent, the most land-locked of all his productions. I want to argue for the importance of “Typhoon” in the development of an English ear and sensibility that has its flowering in the later novel. So I (gently) argue against Michael Lucas’s linguistic finding – that “Falk” represents the fault-line after which Conrad’s prose is normalized or naturalized into literary English. The point is to see how astonishingly Conrad ventriloquises an English sensibility through his use of English idiom. I say ventriloquises because, rather than inhabit it as an Edwardian novelist, this language is always the object of scrutiny even as it is employed. It is this that really makes both works so funny.

 

 

Katie Featherstone

University College London

Conrad’s Novels of the East Indies and Multatuli’s Max Havelaar

This paper will discuss the work of the Dutch-born Indonesian scholar G. J. Resink (1911-1997), in particular his examination of the influence of Multatuli’s famous Dutch anti-colonial novel Max Havelaar (1860) in shaping Conrad’s perception of the Malay Archipelago in his novels. The real importance of Resink’s arguments for the Conradian lies in his detailed knowledge of the geographical areas of the archipelago mentioned in Conrad’s novels. The aim of this paper will be to address the importance of Resink’s claims, focusing in particular on the geographical aspect, narrative structure, and character similarities that were identified in both writer’s oeuvres. 

 

 

Frank Förster

Universität Leipzig

Conrad’s German Reception

The paper gives a brief survey of the German editions of Conrad’s works and his German literary reception deduced from over one thousand reviews and articles from newspapers and magazines from 1902 until today.  The first German translations were already released in 1900, but Conrad was not well known in Germany until the first complete edition of his works was published (1926-39).  In the Third Reich his works were not prohibited but undesirable.  A second and newly translated complete edition (1962-84) was warmly welcomed. In the German Democratic Republic only half of Conrad’s works were published.

 

 

Oliver Garrett

University of Exeter

On the Borders of Self and Ethics

My paper explores concepts of subjectivity and ethics in terms of the “border” as an organizing principle. Attending primarily to the writings of Joseph Conrad, I examine a selection of texts to postulate a theoretical model of the author’s “politics of narration.” Moving to consider the interface between various forms of border and concepts of the self and ethics, the paper engages with several influential approaches to the role of literature within culture, including those of Fredric Jameson, Homi K. Bhabha, and Edward Said. Whilst arguing for the influence of the border in Conrad’s formulations and understandings of subjectivity, the paper also seeks to assess his treatment of the border as a politicized zone of cultural mediation. In this respect, the paper offers an exposition of examples of Conrad’s aesthetic innovation informed by boundaries between categories and their re-presentation as loaded sites of ethical contest. The thesis focuses on Conrad’s short stories “An Outpost of Progress,” “The Lagoon,” and “The Secret Sharer” to assess the changing ideological tensions between ethically motivated literature and the historical and political contexts in which it is produced and received. As a general principle then, the paper proposes the ways in which Joseph Conrad’s writings inhabit complex historical, cultural, and political border positions. Moreover, the paper’s analysis of the author’s formal and thematic fictional techniques reads them as part of a “negotiating” process, staged around a border conceit, between artistic practice and political praxis.

 

 

Wacław Grzybowski

University of Opole

Conrad’s Vision of Human Freedom in the Light of Karol Wojtyła’s Anthropology

It may seem that Conrad’s skepticism creates insurmountable distance, enhanced by history, between him and Karol Wojtyła (John Paul II). However, both are inheritors of the heroic Polish tradition, of literary and patriotic character, which found the element of free will crucial for both individual existence of man and social fate of nation. Wojtyła’s search for the secret of human free will, nourished by his reading of Polish literature and contemplative Chrislotology, found its expression in his poetry and philosophy. His “Person and Deed” can shed unique light upon the silhouettes and secrets of the heroes of Conrad’s novels (Lord Jim, The Rescue, Under Western Eyes).

 

 

Jacek Gutorow

University of Opole

Thresholds of Audibility: Conrad’s Soundings

This is a tentative analysis of various phenomena related to what might be called a philosophy of voice” in Conrad. My point of departure is a letter to Edward Garnett in which Conrad points to “all states of consciousness” understood as varied vibrations of sound waves (letter of 29 Sept. 1898). Thus, sound and voice turn out to be metaphors, or rather metonymies, of presence and identity, and all the acoustic “events” (e.g. articulation/ inarticulation, links between writing and speech, narrative modes and frequencies) can be explained as existential and cognitive issues. One notorious accusation directed against Conrad has had to do with his apparent overuse of adjectives related to moments of incomprehensibility and obscurity. This is a serious accusation as it strikes into the heart of Conrad’s project – the latter is not an expression of ignorance and the resulting artistic failure.

 

 

Robert Hampson

Royal Holloway, University of London

Conrads Malay Fiction and European Women Travelers in the Archipelago

European women in the Malay archipelago have not been given the attention they deserve. The paper will consider two groups of these women: those traveling for professional reasons and those traveling for leisure. It will focus on Victory and The Rescue. It begins with Victory and women’s orchestras in the archipelago. Norman Sherry and others have suggested models for the Ladies Orchestra. The paper will consider the representation of Lena and the Ladies Orchestra in relation to real-life women’s orchestras. The paper then moves on to The Rescue and leisure travel. It will begin with Isabella Bird as a professional traveler and travel-writer. It will then consider travelers such as Annie Brassey, who traveled with her husband in the archipelago. The paper will end by suggesting a new source for Mrs Travers and a consideration of Mrs Travers in relation to this new context.

 

 

Richard J. Hand

University of Glamorgan, Wales

A “Grim and Weird” Play: Basil Macdonald Hastings’ Adaptation of Victory

Basil Macdonald Hastings’s dramatization of Conrad’s Victory (produced 1919) proved to be a highly successful production enjoying a run of over eighty performances at the Globe Theatre in London with actor-producer Marie Löhr as Lena. Despite the popular success of the play, the reviews of the production were fascinatingly mixed ranging from the laudatory to the systematically destructive. In the adaptation, Conrad’s 1915 complex and ambiguous novel is shifted towards the certainties of melodrama: the play presents a rigidly black and white universe with good and evil characters. Such melodramatization is unsurprising in the context of post-Great War popular theatre. Despite the formulaic aspect to the work, the play remains a fine example of the genre of late melodrama and is especially interesting in its characterization, in particular the depiction of “foreign” characters in a post-war context and the stage construction of the “woman-hating” Mr Jones. The implied homosexuality of Jones is not in the least diminished on the stage and yet was overlooked by the notoriously stringent British board of stage censorship – the Lord Chamberlain’s office – which despite being concerned that the play was “lurid” and “dreadful” in its violence, delighted in the populistic thrills and intrinsic “literariness” of the Victory adaptation and granted permission for the play to be performed without a single cut being made. This paper will look at the Victory play with special attention to the reception in the form of theatrical reviews in newspapers and the stage censor’s confidential report.

 

 

Jeremy Hawthorn

English Institute, NTNU, Trondheim

Reading and Writhing: The Exotic and the Erotic in Joseph Conrad

This paper will use the quotations from four of Conrad’s fictional works as a starting-point to explore a particular “family of associations” in his fiction. It will argue that this family of associations enables Conrad to explore sexuality in a partly displaced manner through descriptions of “exotic” vegetation, and through a concern with the response of European observers to this vegetation. Here and elsewhere we are presented not with straightforward or “objective” descriptions of nature but with descriptions that present a displaced image of “exotic” fecundity and that also appeal to suppressed or repressed elements in the male European observer that can be released if he becomes an “outcast.” In these passages, moreover, nature is mediated not just through cultural difference but through cultural history. Whenever Conrad describes “exotic” vegetation the Garden of Eden is not so very far away, with its ability to yoke together ideas of purity and innocence with those of corruption, sensuality, and sexuality. While making some general comments on the way in which Conrad depicts sexuality in terms of its displacement into exotic vegetation, this paper will focus in particular on An Outcast of the Islands as a key text in the understanding of Conrad’s portrayal of erotic and sexual topics.

 

 

Jenaeth Higgins

IES, Chicago

The Problem of Perspective?

Narration and Moral Subjectivity in Heart of Darkness

The widespread recognition of the merits of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has been tempered by critical challenges to both its vague descriptive language and moral inconclusiveness. Stylistic questions have frequently arisen as to the value of disguising the text’s meaning in inscrutable statements and imagery. Thematic queries have often led back to the tale’s central predicament: how does one reconcile Marlow’s irrational commitment to hope with his damning knowledge of mankind’s innate depravity? Ultimately, I believe that these issues of form and content are interconnected. I wish to explore the manner in which narration, for Marlow, constitutes an act of self-determination that allows him to transcend the need to choose between two seemingly mutually exclusive values, hope and truth. Conrad’s use of non-specific imagery and multiple narrators calls attention to the inherently problematic nature of the narrative process. Conrad’s imprecise style and his reliance upon multiple narrators can be explained and justified as instruments of his attempt to affirm the subjectivity of the ideas of hope and truth, and hence, the irrelevance of any moral struggle to determine the primacy of one or the other.

 

 

Douglas Kerr

Hong Kong University

“Typhoon”: Chinese Boxes

Rather than reading “Typhoon” as an enquiry into kinds and theories of language and representation, this paper examines it as a story about a ship carrying a cargo – or are they “passengers”? – of Chinese coolies through a storm. Each coolie has a box, and there is a fight over their contents. The ship itself is a Chinese box, a container of Chinese. And the tale is a Chinese box, with at least one secret inside it. There are two stories about the Chinese in “Typhoon.” One story gives an epitome of the history of China, with the Chinese cast back through misfortune and natural disaster into something like a state of nature (from Hobbes, via Herbert Spencer), dehumanized, and scrabbling in the dark. Inside this is another story which shows the Chinese reduced to penury by the very global traffic that claims to save them. Bound to indentured labour, they have been doing the real “dirty work of empire” around the world in a parodic inversion of the White Man’s Burden, under a system of local exploitation (the Bun Hin Company) which itself defers to the real mastery of the global hegemon upon whom it depends. Both these stories are to be read in the context of the history of the coolie trade, and the immediate aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion (and its reporting in the West).

 

 

Joanna Kurowska

The University of Chicago

“European-ness” and Interpersonal Relations in Conrad’s Malay Fiction

This paper will explore the concept of “European-ness” as considered by Conrad’s various characters and investigate its significance in shaping interpersonal relations among the Europeans as well as between the Europeans and non-Europeans in Conrad’s Malay fiction. The aim will be first to distinguish “European-ness” as identity (as Conrad understood it) from “European-ness” as an ideological construct. My paper will show that notwithstanding their essential “sameness,” the Europeans who share the sense of European-ness as a “construct” remain in discord with their surroundings and among themselves.

 

 

Ann Lane

Japan Women’s University, Tokyo

Silk Plants in Malata

What exactly is the Planter growing on the Malata Concession? What are the five-year-old “silk plants” which induce Professor Moorsom, “the fashionable philosopher of the age”, to take an interest in the plantation that is lucrative rather than scientific? In this story we see Conrad’s political acuteness operating in an unfamiliar area, that of “economic botany.” Conrad’s 1913 story connects with the contemporary great race to discover an industrially viable artificial silk (which was to be useful in celluloid film, parachutes, and aircraft wings). But the story is even more interesting for prefiguring a stock-market scam of the early 1920s, involving a kind of “silk plant” being grown on a concession on the Perak River, and Henry Wickham, the same man who had earlier smuggled out rubber seedlings from Amazonia to give to Sir Joseph Hooker at Kew Gardens, with the eventual result of breaking the monopoly on wild rubber. Conrad’s story links the topics of science and colonial expansion.

 

 

Yannick Le Boulicaut

Université Catholique de l’Ouest, Angers

Going Overboard: Ruffians First!

The main protagonists in Joseph Conrad’s works are usually marginal characters experiencing liminal situations: Jim, Nostromo, Lingard, Marlow, and Heyst are left unexpectedly stranded on the shores of life, they hesitate to stride over the “shadow line,” and when they do, they stop being “one of us,” being overwhelmed by guilt, suffering from the painful consequences of moral transgression. Minor characters such as Schomberg, Heemskirk, Jörgenson, or Mr. Jones on the contrary, are allowed by the novelist to travel freely back and forth from one world to another. The paper will focus on the theme of transgression and try to show that such so-called minor characters help the narration find a better balance since they offer an unusual perspective to the same dramatic situations. Their eccentricity or wickedness creates a second narrative frame to narratives which, otherwise, would have been lost in the mists of impressionism.

 

 

Man-Sik Lee

Kyungwon College, Kyunggido, South Korea

The Implicit Narrator in Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness may be read as a self-conscious meta-fiction intended to parody the logic of conventional ideology. The implicit narrator who presents Marlow’s account of Kurtz plays a central role in this project. The offense of Marlow’s lie to the Intended may provide the cornerstone of a “new” humanism for Europeans as well as Africans if it is understood in terms of the role of the implied narrator.

 

 

Yael Levin

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Moral Ambiguity of Conrad’s Poetics:

Transgressive Secret Sharing in Lord Jim and Under Western Eyes

This paper sets forth several influential theories on the nature of storytelling and the relation of the narrator-witness to the experiencing subject. Drawing from the insights of Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida, the paper re-opens the discussion of the ethical pitfalls involved in the telling of another’s story as demonstrated in the characterization of Conrad’s intradiegetic narrators. A close reading of the characters of Marlow and the English teacher in Lord Jim and Under Western Eyes respectively, and the parallels between them, will help to shed light on the practice of a transgressive secret-sharing in Conrad’s novels. Laying their ethical scruples aside, the two narrators repeat and re-enact the crimes of the novel’s protagonists, spying and betraying their confidants as they go about procuring hidden details of the affairs they witness so as to make them public for their listening or reading audiences.

 

 

Claes Lindskog

Lund University, Sweden

Larger than Life: The Malthusian Tragedy in Conrad’s Fiction

The nineteenth century abounded in simple schemes for making sense of history: witness Hegelian dialectics, Darwinist evolution, the general romanticist obsession with circles, belief in progress, and the Bildungsroman. One such scheme was the triad surplus – fit – deficit. This triad was present as one of the many tragic ghosts underlying the Victorian conception of the world, as instanced by the Malthusian economics of population on which Darwin’s view of the history of speciation was founded. Malthus’s basic insight was that more individuals are born than can possibly survive. This idea was applied to the present of modern societies, to the origin of species, and to the interrelations of the peoples of the world. The same paradigm could be applied to individual lives in Conrad’s fiction. They all follow the formula “more hopes and expectations are born in consciousness than can possibly survive into fact.” This insight is a fairly modern phenomenon and one dependent on the absence of religion to gain its full tragic impact, as it does in Conrad’s work. It changed Conrad’s version of both tragedy and Bildungsroman, and is part of the reason why his work is so necessary for our age. My paper traces this new conception of tragedy in Conrad’s work, with special reference to the imagery of surplus, fit and deficit.

 

 

Michael Lucas

University of Bio-Bio, Chile

“Gaspar Ruiz”: Conrad’s Chilean Tale

This year is the centenary of Conrad’s writing of “Gaspar Ruiz,” set in Chile, a country of which Conrad never came within two thousand miles. In my essay on “The Brute” (Conradian, 28, 2 [2004]), I call “Gaspar Ruiz” “a potboiler if ever there was one.” This paper is an attempt to justify that harsh evaluation through an analysis of Conrad’s sources, his mixing of historical fact and fiction, and the structure and narrative strategy in the story.

 

 

Anne Luyat

Université d’Avignon

Almayer’s Folly and An Outcast of the Islands : Preparing Victory

Mikhaïl Bakhtin believed that the inherent quality of the novel was its unfinished nature. The transmutation and regeneration of its forms resembled human existence in a universe that was forever unfinished. The novels Almayer’s Folly and An Outcast of the Islands shed invaluable light on Victory, which was a triumph of the grotesque imagination.

 

 

Anita Mathew

Goa

The Conradian World View and India

Conrad is read with interest in India today mainly because of the “spiritual” elements in his writings. Conrad’s quest for truth bears comparison with Indian philosophical thought as enumerated in the Vedas and Buddhism rather than the Christian way of defining good and evil in the world. Conrad’s perceptive and mystical manner appeals greatly to the Indian psyche. For him all life was connected and must be respected. Any imbalance of power structures, inflated egos, prejudice, anarchy, alienation, or divisions created by man within himself and without leads to atrophied identities and annihilation of the individual. But the mind of a human being can transform the meaning of Reality. This paper will focus on The Nigger of the “Narcissus,” Heart of Darkness, and Lord Jim as examples of the relevance of this Conradian worldview, which offers possibilities based on the meaning of being culturally civilized which could help to promote unity through harmony and peace in India and throughout the postcolonial world.

 

 

David Miller

London

Amanuensis: A Biographical Sketch of Lilian M. Hallowes

The purpose of my paper is to colour the sketches of Lilian Hallowes we have from the Oxford Reader’s Companion and The Conradian’s commentary on the “Hallowes Notebook,” so augmenting our knowledge of her through a review of Conrad’s correspondence and my original research. The paper is primarily biographical – not attempting textual assessment of her rôle as “unsung co-creator of the original drafts of [Conrad’s] late works” – covering what we know about her life before, with, and after Conrad. Finally, I shall make suggestions with regard to Under Western Eyes and hope to put flesh on her bones.

 

 

Sylvère Monod

Université de Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle

Heemskirk, the Dutch Lieutenant

In “Freya of the Seven Isles,” while not a single character deserves unalloyed esteem, it is Heemskirk who receives the most systematically hostile treatment. Nelson, Jasper Allen, and Freya herself are shown as rather absurd persons, and the narrator is grievously lacking in clear-sightedness. But Heemskirk is depicted as much worse than the others; he is an evil creature, dull-minded, ugly, conceited, and murderously vindictive. He is lieutenant of a gunboat, but in Lord Jim, Conrad had shown that he had nothing against lieutenants of gunboats. The trouble with Heemskirk is that he is the Dutch lieutenant of a Dutch gunboat. Nothing redeems him in the story, though on reflection it appears that responsibility for the final catastrophe is shared by Jasper and especially by Freya; by buffeting Heemskirk’s cheek, she thoughtlessly performs an act which, in its consequences, amounts to murder and suicide. There is much “amusement” going on around Freya, but it is of a sinister kind, because it stupidly ignores the harsh realities of sexual desire. Freya is one of the few women represented by Conrad as physically desirable (unlike, for instance, Edith Travers). That is enough, not of course to provide an excuse for Heemskirk¹s cruelty, but to explain it as the outcome of vigorous, irresistible impulses. Is Heemskirk to be regarded as a or even the typical Dutchman? Up to a point, yes, but in the main what he embodies is Joseph Conrad’s hostility to the Dutch, an attitude that was born in him when he became an officer in the English merchant navy, trading in Dutch-governed areas of the Far East.

 

 

Josiane Paccaud-Huguet

Université Lumière - Lyon 2

The Conradian Moment of Vision

Virginia Woolf praised Conrad”s early works for their presentation of a “flash of insight” when the protective screen of semblance tears up for a character who suddenly glimpses a truth, most of the time unpleasant,. This moment of vision (elsewhere called epiphany or moment of being) revives the romantic tradition of the “spot of time,” accompanied by two affects: fear or ecstasy. With the modernists, however, it crystallizes a traumatic encounter with the force of the real which shatters the symbolic co-ordinates of an individual or a group.This paper will explore the impact of such moments in Conrad’s early works, in particular the “Marlow trilogy” (“Youth”, Heart of Darkness, and Lord Jim).

 

 

Marcin Piechota

University of Opole

Conrad and Polish “Theoretical Racism”

I would like to propose a soothing voice in the worldwide discussion on Conrad’s racism, beginning with examples from Conrad’s early readings in Polish, which would nowadays be considered racist but was understood quite differently in the 19th century. The second part of my paper will consider translations of Conrad’s works since the early 20th century. Especially early translations are filled with overtly racist language, which was criticized by Conrad himself, but certainly the translators’ intentions were nothing of the sort. My point is that the Polish language is, linguistically, inherently racist in a way incomprehensible for non-Polish speakers, without being ideologically racist at all. Things are beginning to change now, but until very recently Poland was cut off from the rest of the world: hardly any Polish citizens were able to leave the country and even fewer would leave the continent, and the country was rarely visited by other nationals and hardly ever by non-Europeans. Therefore, there was no perceived need to discuss the appropriateness of the language used in journals and books; no criticism was available and hence no restraints imposed. On the other hand, there was no possibility of being a racist ideologically owing to the lack of contacts with representatives of other races. So, we might claim that Polish racism was purely theoretical, and in my paper I would like to suggest how Conrad’s writing might have been influenced by this Polish particularity.

 

 

David Prickett

Scotland

The Ethics of Self-governance in Conrad and the Late Work of Michel Foucault

In many of his novels Conrad represents highly restricted or coercive situations, whilst nonetheless demonstrating how ethical action is still possible, namely through the ability of some characters to gain greater control over their subjective experience, and hence relationships with others. Similarly, whilst the thought of Michel Foucault is often taken as portraying the impotence of individuals within structures of power, in his later work Foucault became increasingly interested in methods of self-governance. Following a discussion of Conrad’s treatment of ethical action (drawing on Lord Jim, The Secret Agent, and Under Western Eyes), and an overview of Foucault’s late work, I will consider some possible relationships between their work. Whilst acknowledging their differences, I will argue that their shared suspicion of generalized ideas of liberation, and their insistence upon the need for specific ethical relationships, means that a reading of Conrad offers a way of taking forward the themes of self-governance opened up by Foucault.

 

 

Brygida Pudełko

University of Opole

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Conrad’s “The Warrior’s Soul”

Conrad’s story “The Warrior’s Soul” is unusual in its sympathetic treatment of the Russian military characters who dominate the narrative. Set against the background of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812, “The Warrior’s Soul” displays interesting similarities with Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Conrad, who accepted only partly Tolstoy’s art and did not agree with Tolstoy-the-moralist and his notion of Christianity, created an entirely sympathetic, even idealized Russian character in the person of the morally tortured, but heroic Tomassov. Most of the space in “The Warrior’s Soul,” which is devoted to moving descriptions of the wretched and bloody retreat of the remnants of the French army is analogous to Tolstoy’s presentation of the French army in War and Peace. Both Tolstoy and Conrad reflect a friendly attitude to the French. The representation of courage and honour, although not presented in a quite the same way, is one of the building blocks from which both War and Peace and “The Warrior’s Soul” are constructed.

 

 

Richard Ruppel

Viterbo University

More Love between the Lines: Intimacy in Conrad’s Letters

Conrad’s stories and novels are structured upon one or more central relationship. The Secret Agent presents the clearest example. Winnie and Verloc’s relationship – founded and maintained by silence, lies, misunderstanding, sacrifice, and economic injustice – stands synechdochically for every relationship in the book. Other works are built on multiple relationships. Lord Jim’s first central intimacy is between Marlow and Jim, but, in the second half, this is complicated by the introduction of Jewel, Jim’s paramour. Intimacy is therefore at the heart of Conrad’s fiction. In this paper, I will explore the quality of the intimacy Conrad articulated in his letters. This should give us some additional insight into how we might interpret intimate relations in his fiction: among the crew of the Narcissus; among Kurtz, his Intended, his African consort, the Harlequin, and Marlow; among Jim and Marlow and Jewel; among the language teacher, Razumov, and Natalia in Under Western Eyes, among Heyst, Morrison, and Lena in Victory, etc.

 

 

Ludwig Schnauder

Universität Wien

How Free is Marlow in Heart of Darkness?

Because of the many suggestions of Marlow’s loss of control, it is surprising that he does not come across as a kind of automaton, a helpless cipher or passive non-entity. On the contrary, generations of readers have regarded Marlow as one of Conrad’s most convincing fictional creations endowed with a unique personality and narrative voice. An explanation for this apparent paradox is that Marlow accepts his actions – regardless of whether they have been freely chosen or not – as his own and as definitions of his identity. Most importantly, he recognizes moral responsibility for his deeds and their consequences. It is my contention that in this act Marlow’s freedom becomes manifest in a paradoxical manner: although genuine free will and moral responsibility might be chimeras, we have to hold on to these “positive illusions” because they are essential safeguards of our humanity.

 

 

Yasuko Shidara

University of Tokyo

The Malay Archipelago: Continuity and Discontinuity from Wallace to Conrad
 

When Conrad was labelled as “the Kipling of the Malay Archipelago” in a review of his first novel in 1895, the geographical term meant for British readers the Straits Settlements (with its focal point in Singapore), British Malaya on the Malay Peninsula, and British Borneo (Brooke’s Sarawak), with the vaguely imaged, vast Dutch seas spreading west of these British colonies. If a reader had a clearer idea about the Malay Archipelago, the person must have been a reader of Alfred R. Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago, published in 1869 and kept reprinted throughout the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. In fact, Wallace’s book was one of the most significant precursory texts before Conrad’s staged in the Dutch seas. Conrad’s borrowings from Wallace have been presented in previous studies. Based on these findings and with an understanding that the term “Malay Archipelago” was coined by Wallace in the mid-19th century, my paper explores what Conrad inherited and did not inherit from Wallace’s book, focusing on such aspects as the savage/civilized dichotomy, an attitude toward Portuguese residents as an isolated ethnic group, and how Dutch colonial rule in the region was featured.

 

 

Joanna Skolik

University of Opole

Chivalry in a Distorting Mirror,

or, Honour, Knights, and Damsels in Distress in Chance, “The Duel,” and “Falk”

My paper aims to examine the portraits of the main protagonists of Conrad’s works (Chance, “The Duel” and “Falk”) in order to present what happens when chivalry becomes its own parody. In all the works Conrad plays with the notion of chivalry; the writer proves that without “a few very simple ideas” both chivalry and humanity cannot exist.

 

 

George Smith

Independent Scholar, USA

Realism and Romance: Conrad’s Representation of Feudal Discourse and the End of Modern Fiction

Much has been said in recent years about Conrad’s contrary modes of narrative representation. Discussion usually comes down to Conrad’s habit of playing high modernist absolute form against popular forms, especially romance. In the famous essay that first brings to light these tensions, Fredric Jameson describes Conrad’s romance as emergent, and indeed prescient, mass media literary discourse. Such criticism has revealed the stylistic strategies through which Conrad generates dialectical friction between contrary formal elements. However, little has been said about Conrad’s representation of the other romance, the feudal romance. All the various discourses of aristocratic taste, the purity of form and elitism of attitude that one associates with modernist alienation, depersonalization, disinterestedness, and the like, can be traced to the feudal romance. Carried in with the rising tide of popular fiction that Jameson so wisely but so myopically attributes to Conrad’s production of emergent mass media culture, these feudal polyphonies have gone unnoticed or ignored in Conrad. Thus we have yet to ask whether in fact Conrad’s novel achieves its modernist status precisely insofar as it represents an elitist text through feudal aristocratic discourse. The simple answer is no. The issue is not so much a question of how Conrad plays modernist form against popular form; it is a question of how he plays popular romance against feudal romance.

 

 

Övgü Tüzün

Beykent Universitesi, Istanbul

Journeys into the Outer Edge of Darkness:

The Representation of the Malay Archipelago in the Works of Joseph Conrad and V. S. Naipaul

The aim of this paper will be to offer a comparative reading of Joseph Conrad and V. S. Naipaul’s depiction of the Malay Archipelago in the light of the writers’ views on “half-made societies” and related civilizational issues. In his first book on converted Muslim societies, Amongst the Believers (1981), Naipaul states that “the stories of Joseph Conrad give an impression of remoter places of the Malay Archipelago a hundred years ago.” Earlier, in Conrad’s Darkness (1974), Naipaul had written about two of those stories, “The Lagoon” (the first Conrad story that was read to him when he was just 10) and “Karain” as well as novels like Lord Jim and Victory. Naipaul’s reading here specifically focuses on the examination of the literary style and major themes of a modernist master who had proved to be a significant literary influence on his own writing. Like Conrad, Naipaul endlessly strives to be “faithful to the truth of his own sensations”; an effort which is emphasized but also challenged particularly in his travel writing. Equally, if not more, important for Naipaul are the themes that preoccupy Conrad which, in this context, are “the collusion and juxtaposition of two worlds” and “half-made societies that are doomed to remain half-made.” Thus, Naipaul’s two travelogues, Amongst the Believers (1981) and Beyond Belief (1998), highlight not only a geographical but also a canonical journey while providing, at the same time, important insights on the way different civilizations “interact” in the contemporary world.

 

 

Eduardo Valls Oyarzun

Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Social Rhetorics in Conrad’s The Secret Agent

In The Great Tradition, F. R. Leavis explains the novel as a medium to cope with the different ways in which society interacts with individuals. On these grounds, my paper focuses on the relationship between Society and the Individual and how this relationship is portrayed in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907). The social institutions Conrad depicts in the novel develop a series of mechanisms created to sublimate, deactivate and assimilate those cultural and psychological manifestations which resemble potentially dangerous to both the social group and, most remarkably, its institutions. Conrad portrays this process much in the same way Freud explained years later in his Das Unbehagen in der Kultur. To prove my point, I give a detailed account of the role of Anarchism within the novel as well as of the rhetorical sublimation of particular cultural phenomena – such as sex and art – Conrad carries out in the novel. This rhetorical sublimation, ultimately, posits a new pattern of power relationships which not only deviates from Victorian web-like social models – such as those of George Eliot or Thomas Hardy – but most notably announces certain postmodernist literary and ideological programmes. To show this, I trace the Conradian rhetorical pattern of power relationships in different texts of 20th century poetics: from T. S. Eliot’s “Tradition and Individual Talent,” (1922) to Kenneth Burke’s A Rhetoric of Motives (1964) and Terry Eagleton’s Sweet Violence (2002). Thus, the social rhetorics Conrad achieves in The Secret Agent proves to be a useful tool to update certain critical discourses and to make the novel fit properly in the present day critical corpus.

 

 

Ludmilla Voitkovska

University of Saskatchewan

Conrad and Ukraine: Mutual Erasure

Joseph Conrad has been erased from the canon of English literature in the country of his birth, Ukraine. The choice of works to be translated into Ukrainian and released by the state controlled publishing houses apparently reduces the image of Conrad to that of a writer of romantic sea adventures. The body of Ukrainian criticism of Conrad is extraordinarily small. The first article of a Ukrainian scholar on Conrad appeared in 1925. Until 1990, only 20 critical works on Conrad appeared in Ukraine. Nor has Conrad’s relationship with Ukraine received much attention in Western criticism. In fact, a number of questions arise from Conrad biographies as their authors make references to the country of Conrad’s birth. Neill R. Joy of Colgate University writes in the Dictionary of National Biography: “It is extraordinarily odd that one of the most important novelists of twentieth century writing in English should have been born in Berdyczyw in the Polish Ukraine and raised speaking Polish and French.” What map of Europe are Conrad biographers looking at when they refer to “Polish Ukraine,” and, consequently, what political narrative of a state history are they promoting? Why has the Ukrainian reader been denied an opportunity to read Conrad’s works which have become permanent fixtures in English literature courses in Western universities? Answers to these questions lie in the complex political history of the region, which also involves the history of ethnic relationships between Russia, Poland, and Ukraine.

 

 

Paul Wake

Manchester Metropolitan University

The Time of Death: “Passing Away” in The Secret Agent

This paper will consider the notion of the instant of death as it appears in Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Focusing on Inspector Heat’s examination of Stevie’s body, in particular his remark that “The man [...] had died instantaneously,” I will examine the ways in which Conrad’s novel attempts to narrate the instant.  The novel contains three distinct attacks on time. The most obvious is the attempted attack on the Greenwich Royal Observatory, which fails spectacularly. The second can be located in the novel’s complex narrative structure which, by exploiting the discrepancy between narrative time and story time, illustrates the potential of the narratological nature of human time. The final and, I will suggest, the most successful attack in The Secret Agent is on the notion of the instant and the impossibility of the instant appearing in narrative. This impossibility is derived from the nature of a narrative time that functions in terms of relation between past, present and future. My paper will concentrate on this final attack, offering a close textual analysis that draws on aspects of Aristotle’s Poetics, Augustine’s Confessions, and Paul Ricoeur’s Time and Narrative. In this way I hope to indicate the ways in which the temporal form of the novel reflects and supports the more readily apparent attack on time in the attempted destruction of the Greenwich Royal Observatory.

 

 

Andrea White

California State University at Dominguez Hills

Allegories of the Self and of Empire: Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Conrad’s “A Smile of Fortune”

It is tempting to read Conrad’s “A Smile of Fortune” as another island tale in the tradition of The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, or The Coral Island, especially in the story’s initial paragraphs which narrate our approach to “a fertile and beautiful island of the tropics,” the “Pearl of the Ocean.” But our horizon of expectation soon suffers a shock, for this story goes on to tell of belatedness and darkness, of self-deception and self-destruction. Its complex doublings and withheld mysteries are illuminated less by an island story such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island than by that same writer’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Not only does the Victorian story famously concern the decentering of the sovereign self in a way that anticipates “A Smile of Fortune,” but it also depicts the London of the 1880s as a decidedly dark place, an image replicated and intensified in Conrad’s story. London, as “home” to both of these fictions’ protagonists, is represented as indeed one of the dark places of the earth, a metropolitan center with fissures and repressions of its own that interestingly repeats the figure of the decentered self common to both Stevenson’s and Conrad’s texts.

 

 

Agnes Yeow

University of Malaya

Contesting Histories, Contesting Empires: A Glimpse of Conrad’s Netherlands East Indies

Conrad’s sojourn in the Malay Archipelago coincided with major events taking place in the region in the last quarter of the nineteenth century including the enforcement of Indirect Rule, the consolidation of the colonial state, the carving out of new political units, as well as the strategic and diplomatic tussle between European imperial powers. From the Lingard trilogy to “Freya,” Conrad’s Eastern tales mirror the political realities of Anglo-Dutch rivalry. This paper attempts to map Conrad’s fictional Dutch East Indies against the backdrop constituted by the “facts” of history to illuminate the absent meanings within both narratives. A contrapuntal reading reveals an intense dialogue between art and history and the ironic implications which arise from this conversation. This paper examines Conrad’s depiction of the political intrigues and the cultural and socio-economic repercussions precipitated by the clash of empires: a portrayal which arguably supports the authorial claim (in Notes on Life and Letters) that “fiction is history, human history, or it is nothing.”

 

 

 

 


 

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