Conrad's Trojan Horses: Imperialism, Hybridity, and the Postcolonial Aesthetic

Overview

With references to his work appearing everywhere from the New Yorker to The Simpsons, Joseph Conrad remains one of the twentieth century’s most widely discussed literary figures. And yet it may be that an abundant scholarship has pigeonholed Conrad as an early modernist.Tom Henthorne counters that Conrad’s work can be best understood in relation to that of such early twentieth-century writers as S. K. Ghosh and Solomon Plaatje—postcolonialists who developed innovative ways of cloaking their anti-imperialism when ...

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Overview

With references to his work appearing everywhere from the New Yorker to The Simpsons, Joseph Conrad remains one of the twentieth century’s most widely discussed literary figures. And yet it may be that an abundant scholarship has pigeonholed Conrad as an early modernist.Tom Henthorne counters that Conrad’s work can be best understood in relation to that of such early twentieth-century writers as S. K. Ghosh and Solomon Plaatje—postcolonialists who developed innovative ways of cloaking their anti-imperialism when working with British publishers. In Almayer’s Folly, An Outcast of the Islands, and his first short stories, Conrad attacks imperialism overtly. Yet as he began to work with more conservative publishers to acquire a larger, imperial audience, he developed a Trojan Horse strategy, deliberately obfuscating his radical politics through his use of multiple narrators, irony, free indirect discourse, and other devices that are now associated with modernism.Sensitive to the breadth of his prospective audience, Henthorne offers an engaging and accessible analysis of Conrad’s canon, from the early novels and short stories to the major works, including The Nigger of the Narcissus, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, and Nostromo. He also considers critical responses to Conrad and the influence Conrad has had upon modernist and postcolonial writers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896726338
  • Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2008
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Ch. 1 Imperialism, Hybridity, and Conrad's Postcolonial Aesthetic 15

Ch. 2 "There Will Be Fighting": Insurgency and Postcoloniality in Almayer's Folly and An Outcast of the Islands 32

Ch. 3 "But I Should Like to Sell Them": Conrad's First Stories and the Short-Fiction Market 64

Ch. 4 Tricks of the Tale: Misdirection and Subterfuge in The Nigger of the "Narcissus," "Karain," and "Youth" 81

Ch. 5 "You - Even You! - May Miss It": Heart of Darkness and Conrad's Trojan Horse Strategy 109

Ch. 6 "The Onlookers See Most of the Game": Marlow, Jim, and Postcolonial Patusan 132

Ch. 7 Irony upon Irony: The Changing World and Changing Techniques in Nostramo 153

Ch. 8 Irony, Duplicity, and the Postcolonial Aesthetic 172

Notes 175

Works Cited 207

Index 219

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    perspectives and criticisms of colonialism in Conrad's works

    Henthorne sees in conflicting aspects of Conrad's writing and his situation as a writer the prototype (though not the only one) for postcolonial works by authors in or from former colonies. The main difference between Conrad and these latter authors such as Chinua Achebe, V. S. Naipaul, R. K. Narayan, and Salman Rushdie is a difference in time, not a difference in the basics of the formalities of approach (i. e., author stance), general treatment of subject matter, and ironic tone in the presentation of setting and relationships between central characters. When Conrad is categorized at all, even by some later writers whose works have a close, though often unrecognized affinity with his, he is usually seen as a colonial or imperialist writer. This is because he is regarded as an English author (though he was born in Poland) writing for an English audience at a time when Britain was the world's major colonial power. Nonetheless, as the author uncovers in critiques of major and secondary works throughout Conrad's career, through dialogue, characterization, interaction of characters, and sometimes narrative or commentary, Conrad portrayed the dilemmas and plights of colonial subjects and the uncertain legacy of imperialism. Born in Poland, Conrad was inevitably always to some degree in the position of the Other in English society. But this alone does not account for the postcolonial aesthetic Henthorne discerns. Not beginning his writing career until he was 38 after years in the Merchant Marine, Conrad had to give English publishers what they were looking for to get published. Late Victorian readers were not looking for critiques of colonialism. They were looking for stories with exotic locales and colorful, but not threatening or even self-evidently very intelligent or worldly native characters. As interest in English explorers and adventurers and the popularity of authors such as Isak Dinesen ad Rider Haggard attests, the public wanted literature which confirmed England's control over her colonies, even if this came from putting down revolts of native populations. While Conrad's works did move from the formulas of English virtues winning out over native resistance or rebellion, contented rulership, and civilizing primitive lands, they did not so much that British readers shunned them. On one level, Conrad's works can be read as dramatic, adventuresome tales of individualistic English men in exotic places. Henthorne attributes Conrad's success with English readers at the time to this. It is in their details, not their ostensible themes, general narrative, or action that Conrad's novels represent postcolonial literature. This is seen with the death of Jim in the novel 'Lord Jim' after his failure to live up to his image of himself as having a superior morality and being able to have mastery over local natives. In keeping with the euphemistic conventions of the popular literature, Jim's death is described as 'romantic.' But in portraying Jim as a failure, Conrad suggests with this character that similarly colonialism is flawed and cannot forever keep its hold over foreign lands for its primary aim of 'greater profit' as another character in this major work by Conrad assents. Locating, analyzing, expounding such limited, partial, and to some degree conflicted elements throughout work of Conrad, associate professor of English and women's and gender studies at Pace University Henthorne places the author with postcolonial literature mostly as a progenitor. Henthorne shows that postcolonialism is not necessarily rooted in geography, but more importantly is a style of irony, double consciousness, cultural ambivalences, and awareness of the fatal flaws of imperialism. Writers in the couple of generations following Conrad would work with these techniques, perspectives, and critiques found in Conrad's writings.

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