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Coercion to Speak
Conrad's Poetics of Dialogue
Aaron Fogel
Harvard University Press, 1985

Novelists have individually distinctive ideas of dialogue, Aaron Fogel argues. In this analysis of Conrad's narrative craft he explores--with broad implications--the theory and uses of dialogue.

Conrad's was a distinctive reading of the English language conditioned by his particular idea of forced speech and forced writing. Fogel shows how Conrad shaped ideas and events and interpreted character and institutions by means of dialogues representing not free exchange but various forms of forcing another to respond. He applied this format not only to the obvious political contexts, such as inquisition or spying, but also to seemingly more private relations, such as marriage, commerce, and storytelling. His idea of dialogue shaded the meanings he gave to words even to characters' names. Conrad is particularly interested in scenes in which a speech-forcer is surprised, repudiated, or punished. Fogel concludes that Conrad increasingly saw the punishment of the speech-forcer as classically related to Oedipus inquiries, in which the provoked answers rebound upon and destroy the forcer. This punishment is--as Shakespeare, Scott, and Wordsworth also dramatically intuited--the classical Oedipal dialogue scene.

Fogel's analysis ranges widely over Conrad's fiction but focuses especially on Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and Under Western Eyes. His readings offer a balanced critique of Mikhail Bakhtin's theories about dialogic. Conrad's novels have many of the features Bakhtin identified as dialogical; but he was preoccupied with coercion in dialogue form. Fogel proposes that to understand this form is to begin to reconsider our political and aesthetic assumptions about what dialogue is or ought to be.

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Conrad and Empire
Stephen Ross
University of Missouri Press, 2004
In Conrad and Empire, Stephen Ross challenges the orthodoxy of the last thirty years of Conrad criticism by arguing that to focus on issues of race and imperialism in Conrad’s work is to miss the larger and more important engagement with developing globalization undertaken there. Drawing on the conceptual model provided by Arjun Appadurai and by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Ross maintains that Conrad’s major novels confront an emergent new world order that replaces nation-state-based models of geopolitics with the global rule of capitalism, and shows how Conrad supplements this conceptualization by tracing the concrete effects of such a change on the psyches of individual subjects. Borrowing from Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Lacan, Ross contends that Conrad’s major novels present us with an astute vision of a truly global world order.
Devoting a chapter to each novel, the author analyzes Heart of Darkness,Lord Jim, Nostromo, and The Secret Agent to expose their social vision, their concern with individual experience, and their philosophical synthesis of the two. After showing how Conrad sets the stage, Ross considers selected characters’ personal histories and the family romances by which Conrad sheds light on individual characters’ motives, exposing the penetration of ideological forces into personal lives. He then shows how the drama of slave morality in each of the novels synthesizes their critique of social organization and their attention to personal history by revealing how each novel follows an individual character’s doomed attempt to transcend the totalizing dimensions of Empire.
Ross claims that though postcolonial criticisms of Conrad’s work have produced excellent insights, they remain inadequate to understanding its complexity. Instead, he argues, Conrad’s novels should be read for their compellingly prescient vision of a postnational world under the sway of global capitalism. Although Conrad’s vision of that world is undeniably bleak, Ross believes, his almost willful reaffirmation of the very values he has shown to be bankrupt constitutes a “weak idealism.” Consequently, Ross argues, Conrad’s fiction is profoundly ethical and pertinent to the pressing project of how to live in a bewilderingly variable world.
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Conrad's Shadow
Catastrophe, Mimesis, Theory
Nidesh Lawtoo
Michigan State University Press, 2016
Western thought has often dismissed shadows as fictional, but what if fictions reveal original truths? Drawing on an anti-Platonic tradition in critical theory, Lawtoo adopts ethical, anthropological, and philosophical lenses to offer new readings of Joseph Conrad’s novels and the postcolonial and cinematic works that respond to his oeuvre. He argues that Conrad’s fascination with doubles urges readers to reflect on the two sides of mimesis: one side is dark and pathological, and involves the escalation of violence, contagious epidemics, and catastrophic storms; the other side is luminous and therapeutic, and promotes communal survival, postcolonial reconciliation, and plastic adaptations to changing environments. Once joined, the two sides reveal Conrad as an author whose Janus-faced fictions are powerfully relevant to our contemporary world of global violence and environmental crisis.
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Farm to Form
Modernist Literature and Ecologies of Food in the British Empire
Jessica Martell
University of Nevada Press, 2020
In this groundbreaking book, Jessica Martell investigates the relationship between industrial food and the emergence of literary modernisms in Britain and Ireland. By the early twentieth century, the industrialization of the British Empire’s food system had rendered many traditional farming operations, and attendant agrarian ways of life, obsolete. Weaving insights from modernist studies, food studies, and ecocriticism, Farm to Form contends that industrial food made nature “modernist,” a term used as literary scholars understand it—stylistically disorienting, unfamiliar, and artificial but also exhilarating, excessive, and above all, new. Martell draws in part upon archives in the United Kingdom but also presents imperial foodways as an extended rehearsal for the current era of industrial food supremacy. She analyzes how pastoral mode, anachronism, fragmentation, and polyvocal narration reflect the power of the literary arts to reckon with—and to resist—the new “modernist ecologies” of the twentieth century.

Deeply informed by Martell’s extensive knowledge of modern British, Irish, American, and World Literatures, this progressive work positions modernism as central to the study of narratives of resistance against social and environmental degradation. Analyzed works include those of Thomas Hardy, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, George Russell, and James Joyce.

In light of climate change, fossil fuel supremacy, nutritional dearth, and other pressing food issues, modernist texts bring to life an era of crisis and anxiety similar to our own. In doing so, Martell summons the past as a way to employ the modernist term of “defamiliarizing” the present so that entrenched perceptions can be challenged. Our current food regime is both new and constantly evolving with the first industrial food trades. Studying earlier cultural responses to them invites us to return to persistent problems with new insights and renewed passion.
 
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Joseph Conrad
Martin Ray
University of Iowa Press, 1990

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Kipling and Conrad
The Colonial Fiction
John A. McClure
Harvard University Press, 1981

In this skillfully written essay on the fiction of imperialism, John McClure portrays the colonialist—his nature, aspirations, and frustrations—as perceived by Kipling and Conrad. And he relates these perceptions to the world and experiences of both writers.

In the stories of the 1880s, McClure shows, Kipling focuses with bitter sympathy on “the white man’s burden” in India, the strains produced by early exile, ignorance of India, and the interference of liberal bureaucrats in the business of rule. Later works, including The Jungle Book and Kim, present proposals for imperial education intended to eliminate these strains.

Conrad also explores the strains of colonial life, but from a perspective antithetical in many respects to Kipling’s. In the Lingard novels and Lord Jim he challenges the imperial image of the colonialist as a wise, benign father protecting his savage dependents. The pessimistic assessment of the colonialist’s motives and achievements developed in these works finds full expression, McClure suggests, in Heart of Darkness. And in Nostromo Conrad explores the human dimensions of large-scale capitalist intervention in the colonial world, finding once again no cause to celebrate imperialism.

John McClure’s interpretation is forceful but ever attuned to the complexities of the texts discussed.

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The Mirror of the Sea
Joseph Conrad
Northwestern University Press, 1988
First published in 1906, The Mirror of the Sea was the first of Joseph Conrad's two autobiographical memoirs. Discussing it, he called the book "a very intimate revelation. . . . I have attempted here to lay bare with the unreserve of a last hour's confession the terms of my relation with the sea, which beginning mysteriously, like any great passion the inscrutable Gods send to mortals, went on unreasoning and invincible, surviving the test of disillusion, defying the disenchantment that lurks in every day of a strenuous life; went on full of love's delight and love's anguish, facing them in open-eyed exultation without bitterness and without repining, from the first hour to the last."
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Modernity At Sea
Melville, Marx, Conrad In Crisis
Cesare Casarino
University of Minnesota Press, 2002

Analyzes nineteenth-century seafaring narratives and their importance to ideas of modernity

At once a literary-philosophical meditation on the question of modernity and a manifesto for a new form of literary criticism, Modernity at Sea argues that the nineteenth-century sea narrative played a crucial role in the emergence of a theory of modernity as permanent crisis.

In a series of close readings of such works as Herman Melville’s White-Jacket and Moby Dick, Joseph Conrad’s The Nigger of the "Narcissus” and The Secret Sharer, and Karl Marx’s Grundrisse, Cesare Casarino draws upon the thought of twentieth-century figures including Giorgio Agamben, Louis Althusser, Walter Benjamin, Leo Bersani, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Antonio Negri to characterize the nineteenth-century ship narrative as the epitome of Michel Foucault’s "heterotopia"—a special type of space that simultaneously represents, inverts, and contests all other spaces in culture.Elaborating Foucault’s claim that the ship has been the heterotopia par excellence of Western civilization since the Renaissance, Casarino goes on to argue that the nineteenth-century sea narrative froze the world of the ship just before its disappearance—thereby capturing at once its apogee and its end, and producing the ship as the matrix of modernity.
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NOMADIC VOICES
CONRAD AND THE SUBJECT OF NARRATIVE
Bruce Henricksen
University of Illinois Press, 1992
 "A highly intelligent and
  successful study exploring the uncanny features of Conrad's art that respond,
  and lend depth, to the concerns of theorists such as Bakhtin and Lyotard."
  -- Suresh Raval, University of Arizona
 
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One of Us
The Mastery of Joseph Conrad
Geoffrey Galt Harpham
University of Chicago Press, 1996
The concept of mastery straddles a largely unexamined seam in contemporary thought dividing admirable self-control from a reprehensible will to power. Although Joseph Conrad has traditionally been viewed as an admirable master—master mariner, storyteller, and writer—his reputation has been linked in recent years to the negative masteries of racism, imperialism, and patriarchy.

In this book, Geoffrey Galt Harpham delves not only into Conrad's literary work and reputation but also into the concept of mastery. Outlining a psychology of composition that embraces Conrad's personal as well as historical circumstances, Harpham sheds new light on traditional issues in Conrad criticism, such as his Polish background and his preoccupation with the sea, by linking them to less frequently discussed subjects, including his elusive sexuality and his idiosyncratic relation to the English language.

One of Us represents both a methodological innovation in the practice of literary criticism and an important contribution to our understanding of how masters—and canons based on them—are made.

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A Personal Record
Joseph Conrad
Northwestern University Press, 1982
Long unavailable, A Personal Record, the second of Conrad's autobiographical memoirs, originally appeared in 1912. These "reminiscent pages" retrace the author's East European origins, his years at sea, his passionate adoption of English, and the emergence of his career as one of the key figures in modern literature.
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Reading Conrad
J. Hillis Miller, John G. Peters, Jakob Lothe,
The Ohio State University Press, 2017
For half a century, J. Hillis Miller has been a premier figure in English and comparative literature, influencing and leading the direction of literary studies. What is less well-known is that he has been equally influential in Conrad studies with his work on nihilism, language, and narrative in Joseph Conrad’s fiction. Returning to Conrad at different stages of his long career—reading and rereading him in light of new critical trends—Miller continually discovered new aspects of the influential author’s fiction. This volume, edited by John G. Peters and Jakob Lothe, charts Miller’s shifting insights into Joseph Conrad’s fiction and also highlights the potential of Conrad studies to illuminate core questions in studies of narrative theory, aesthetics, and history.
 
Reading Conrad by J. Hillis Miller demonstrates a surprising cohesiveness across Miller’s career as well as the richness of Conrad’s fiction, which affords varied opportunities for critical approaches as different as phenomenology, new criticism, deconstruction, narrative theory, and narrative ethics. Miller’s analyses emphasize literature’s rhetorical and performative power, ultimately suggesting that while narrative fiction is an effect of a series of complex phenomena in society and in the human psyche, as literary language it can also refer to the external world indirectly and contribute to the formation of history from within. 
 
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Rereading Conrad
Daniel R.Schwarz
University of Missouri Press, 2001

Leading Conradian scholar Daniel R. Schwarz assembles his work from over the past two decades into one crucial volume, providing a significant reexamination of a seminal figure who continues to be a major focus in the twenty-first century. Schwarz touches on virtually all of Joseph Conrad's work including his masterworks and the later, relatively neglected fiction.

In his introduction and in the persuasive and insightful essays that follow, Schwarz explores how the study of Conrad has changed and why Conrad is such a focus of interest in terms of gender, postcolonial, and cultural studies. He also demonstrates how Conrad helps define the modernist cultural tradition.

Exploring such essential works as Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo, and "The Secret Sharer," Schwarz addresses issues raised by recent theory, discussing the ways in which contemporary readers, including, of course, himself, have come to read Conrad differently. He does so without abandoning crucial Conradian themes such as the disjunction between interior and articulated motives and the discrepancies between dimly acknowledged needs, obsessions, and compulsions and actual behavior.

Schwarz also touches on the extent to which Conrad's conservative desires for a few simple moral and political ideas were often at odds with his profound skepticism. A powerful close reader of Conrad's complex texts, Schwarz stresses how from their opening paragraphs Conrad's works establish a grammar of psychological, political, and moral cause and effect.

Rereading Conrad sheds new light on an author who has spoken to readers for over a century. Schwarz's essays take account of recent developments in theory and cultural studies, including postcolonial, feminist, gay, and ecological perspectives, and show how reading Conrad has changed in the face of the theoretical explosion that has occurred over the past two decades. Because for over three decades Schwarz has been an important figure in defining how we read Conrad and in studying modernism, including how we respond to the relationship between modern literature and modern art, scholars, teachers, and students will take great pleasure in this new collection of his work.

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Towards the Ethics of Form in Fiction
Narratives of Cultural Remission
Leona Toker
The Ohio State University Press, 2010

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Who Paid for Modernism?
Art, Money, and the Fiction of Conrad, Joyce and Lawrence
Joyce Piell Wexler
University of Arkansas Press, 1997
Examining the ways the publishing experiences of Conrad, Joyce, and Lawrence affected their fiction, Wexler draws on diverse sources of evidence to challenge some of the myths of modernism.
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