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Joseph Conrad and the Epistemology of Space

This essay works from an inductive hermeneutic to uncover Joseph Conrad’s conception of material space. Conrad recognizes a gap between space as it can be measured and space as human beings actually experience it. Throughout his works, Conrad represents the interaction of subject, object, and context in the human experience of space. The resulting subjective space then leads to larger questions of knowledge in general, as Conrad ultimately comes to the conclusion that all knowledge is contingent, dependent upon the context in which it is experienced.

Under the sumptuous immensity of the sky, the snow covered the endless forests, the frozen rivers, the plains of an immense country, obliterating the landmarks, the accidents of the ground, levelling everything under its uniform whiteness, like a monstrous blank page awaiting the record of an inconceivable history.

—Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes

Increased interest in the experience of space in literature in recent decades has resulted in numerous commentaries on such topics as colonial space, geographical space, gendered space, liminal space, psychic space, and signifying space. In fact, Con Coroneos suggests that Homi Bhabha’s “DissemiNation”1 considers as many as forty different types of space.2

Conrad studies have not been silent during this proliferation, often producing powerful and provocative readings of Conrad and space. [End Page 98] Coroneos, for example, investigates Conrad’s geographical spaces, as does Katherine Isobel Baxter; Robert Hampson and Cesare Casarino examine Conrad’s heterotopic spaces; Harry Sewlall and Sanjay Krishnan consider Conrad’s colonial spaces, while Padmini Mongia and Attie de Lange focus on his gendered colonial spaces. Other critics delve into more figurative spaces: Merry W. Pawloski looks at Conrad’s gendered spaces in light of cultural space; Wesley A. Kort comments on labor and Conrad’s social spaces; Joanna Mstowska examines Conrad’s inner spaces; Sarah Dauncey explores his metaphysical spaces; and Nathalie Martinière studies Conrad’s symbolic spaces.3

Despite their differences, though, these studies have a common methodology. They all begin with a philosophy of space—usually a different philosophy of space, but a philosophy nonetheless. These studies then approach their subject through that lens in order to show how Conrad’s works relate to the larger philosophical discussion. Moving outward from such a foundation, Casarino, for instance (working from Foucault’s “other spaces”4), can expose the heterotopias hiding in “The Secret Sharer” (1910) and The Nigger of the “Narcissus” (1897), while Sewlall (starting from Lefebvre’s social space and Bhabha’s postmodern space5) can present postcolonial/postmodern spaces occupying Almayer’s Folly (1895) and An Outcast of the Islands (1896). In this same way, Mstowska (employing Bachelard’s phenomenological space6) can disclose inner spaces in “Youth” (1898) and The Mirror of the Sea (1906), and Martinière (also drawing on Bachelard) can reveal symbolic spaces in Conrad’s sea stories. Furthermore, beginning with a philosophy of space allows most of these commentators to gravitate toward figurative rather than material spaces, and in the process illuminate the figurative forms of space that populate Conrad’s writings.

At the same time, however, working from the opposite direction is equally valuable. Unlike these philosophically grounded studies, I don’t begin with a philosophy of space but instead seek to uncover, inductively, the implications of Conrad’s inquiries into how human beings negotiate the material space around them, thus leading to Conrad’s own view of space. To do so, one must consider Conrad’s canon as a whole. While beginning with an existing philosophy of space allows for (and in practice has resulted in) studies of space in one or in a small number of his texts (as in the examples above), an inductive hermeneutics requires a broader approach to Conrad’s writings in order to draw out his underlying presuppositions concerning space and the larger issues they reveal. Inductive hermeneutics focusing on a single text or on a [End Page 99] small number of texts would invariably skew how space is manifested in his works. Working inductively also necessitates focusing on Conrad’s material, or embodied, spaces (material not in the geographical but in the experiential sense)—in other words, how his characters actually experience the spaces they encounter.7 Only by exploring a variety of individual instances of embodied space can one arrive at a general conclusion concerning Conrad’s constructions of space. In the end, these embodied spaces disclose not so much a systematic philosophy of space as an impressionist engagement with the broader material world, particularly how human beings acquire knowledge and how such knowledge is influenced by objects of consciousness—including physical space.


From his earliest to his latest writings, Conrad works from an impressionist epistemology to examine the human experience of space and its relationship to knowledge. He consistently contrasts objective space (space as it is objectively measured) with subjective space (space as it is subjectively experienced). In so doing, Conrad reveals a gap between objectivity and subjectivity, since phenomena can only be encountered through the medium of a single consciousness at a fixed place and at a fixed time.

Consequently, human beings experience space individually and contextually, and Conrad’s subjective spaces are ultimately tied to his impressionist epistemology. From its inception, impressionism has been an amorphous term, with many commentators associating it largely with an idiosyncratic response to phenomena. Elsewhere, I have argued that impressionism is an epistemological phenomenon that runs a middle course between emphasizing the object and emphasizing the subject. This middle course reproduces the interaction among subject, object, and surrounding circumstances; thus the experiential process rests neither solely with the subject nor solely with the object but instead in the space between. In this way, boundaries between subject and object blur: subject transforms object while object transforms subject, each modifying the other.8

In Conrad and Impressionism, I explored Conrad’s impressionist response to objects, subjects, and time, but his response to space is equally impressionist and equally important. In “Heart of Darkness” (1899), for example, the narrator, Marlow, merges with the African landscape as he travels upriver in the Congo, and both are transformed. Marlow [End Page 100] experiences this space as dark and dangerous, a space disclosing a bleak universe: “It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”9 “The reaches opened before us and closed behind. … We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness” (HD, pp. 78–79). Marlow’s subjectivity changes the African landscape from an objective, neutral space into a vengeful, inscrutable one: “the heart of darkness.” Similarly, Africa alters Marlow when it reveals to him its troubling truths. Returning to Europe, a changed Marlow scorns the uninitiated people he passes in the streets: “They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew. Their bearing… was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntings of folly in the face of a danger it is unable to comprehend” (HD, p. 119). Lacking Marlow’s experience, these people are unaware of what he has learned. In this epistemological event, one is unsure where Marlow’s boundaries end and those of Africa begin, as the landscape projects itself onto Marlow and Marlow projects himself onto the landscape.

Material space may be objective in essence, but for Conrad human beings cannot experience it objectively. Instead, they encounter a space that may compress, expand, or otherwise diverge from objective space. But however space is experienced, the common feature among all spatial encounters lies in the contrast between the subject’s experience of a spatial segment and its existence as an objective and measurable entity. At the same time, the human inability to experience objective spatial entities is not solely responsible for subjective space; the public and the private past (one’s cultural and personal experiences) also influence subjective space. Human beings associate with spatial segments ideas, memories, feelings, cultural mores, and other, similar qualities that are not inherent to spatial segments. Therefore, not only one’s subjectivity but also one’s public and private pasts lead to a distinct difference between objective and subjective space.

Together with public and the private past, subject and object also blur with their physical surroundings. These blurred boundaries place both subject and object at a particular place at a specific time, so that the epistemological result is an object that cannot be extricated from its context without changing the spatial encounter. In the process, phenomena intertwine, ending in a unique experience that joins subject, object, and context in an interdependent event. In Lord Jim (1900), Marlow’s final glimpse of Jim exemplifies this phenomenon: [End Page 101]

He was white from head to foot, and remained persistently visible with the stronghold of the night at his back, the sea at his feet, the opportunity by his side—still veiled. … For me that white figure in the stillness of coast and sea seemed to stand at the heart of a vast enigma. The twilight was ebbing fast from the sky above his head, the strip of sand had sunk already under his feet, he himself appeared no bigger than a child—then only a speck, a tiny white speck, that seemed to catch all the light left in a darkened world. … And, suddenly, I lost him. …10

In this scene, various elements interact to culminate in the fluidity among Marlow, Jim, and the space where they exist, as this spatial segment remains in flux through its ever-changing context—ending in its final, striking image. The darkness of the space enhances Jim’s brightness, and Jim’s brightness enhances the darkness. Furthermore, as Marlow sails farther away and as the day’s dusk grows deeper, the contexts of increasing physical distance and decreasing atmospheric lighting also change how Marlow perceives the space around Jim and his relation to it: Jim’s brightness initially dominates the spatial darkness but eventually succumbs to it. As the physical context of Marlow’s perception of that space alters, so too does his experience of the space itself.

Marlow’s past also plays a relevant role in the scene’s blurred boundaries, light and dark taking on personal and cultural associations. Traditional Western associations of light and dark belong to Marlow’s cultural past and color his perception of the space Jim occupies, along with his perception of Jim himself (as both physical object and human subject). Jim dresses in white and is often associated with goodness and innocence, but time and again he succumbs to unsavory individuals (Cornelius, Gentleman Brown, his fellow officers aboard the Patna), just as the figure in white is consumed by darkness. Marlow’s personal experience with Jim also affects his perception of their final moments together. Throughout the novel, Marlow ties Jim to “the sovereign power enthroned in a fixed standard of conduct” (LJ, p. 43), that standard of conduct that allows for no failures, such as Jim’s abandoning the Patna when it appears that the ship will sink after the collision. Both Marlow and Jim believe in this code of conduct (although Marlow’s faith wavers over time), and while Marlow would like to make allowances for Jim’s failure, he also connects Jim to this idealistic standard (“the opportunity by his side”), and Jim continually fails when confronted with opposing pressures (thereby complicating Marlow’s conception of good and evil and their connection to Jim). [End Page 102]

Because of Jim’s relationship to this ideal, Marlow’s last view of him takes on symbolic overtones: as the physical darkness swallows Jim’s physical lightness, symbolic darkness swallows Jim’s symbolic lightness. In this scene, subject, object, and contextual elements (physical surroundings, Jim’s appearance, and Marlow’s subjectivity, as well as his public and private pasts) gather to disclose a singular epistemological moment. Isolated from those elements, Marlow would experience a different spatial segment.

Throughout Conrad’s writings, the interactive role among elements of the epistemological experience result in fluid boundaries between subject, object, and surrounding circumstances. In this way, his works testify to Walter Pater’s assertion that “it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike.”11 Conrad demonstrates this flux of experience and, more particularly, the idea that no two experiences are precisely the same. Concerning space specifically, he shows that each spatial segment changes depending on who experiences it and the context in which it is experienced, because subjectivity, individual experience (both personal and cultural), and changing physical circumstances invariably determine how a segment of space appears. Recognizing this highly contextualized relationship between subject and object, Conrad re-creates a single subject’s experience at a particular point in time and space, and in the end finds all experience to be individual and every experience unique.

By representing the numerous permutations of subjective space that result from the dynamic relationship among subject, object, and context, Conrad discloses the diverse ways human beings experience space. At times, as in Marlow’s last view of Jim, multiple factors may equally influence the emerging subjective space; at others, a single factor weighs more heavily.

On the most basic level, one’s experience of space changes as the physical context changes. For example, Jim remarks of the space he perceives immediately after abandoning ship, “You couldn’t distinguish the sea from the sky; there was nothing to see and nothing to hear. Not a glimmer, not a shape, not a sound. You could have believed that every bit of dry land had gone to the bottom” (LJ, p. 90). Without the cloud cover and black night, he would not perceive the same sea, and after sunrise (when the physical context changes) he confronts another sea. A similar scene occurs in Almayer’s Folly (1895): “Every outline had [End Page 103] disappeared in the intense blackness that seemed to have destroyed everything but space. Only the fire glimmered like a star forgotten in this annihilation of all visible things.”12 And in The Rescue (1920): “There was not a star in the sky and no gleam on the water; there was no horizon, no outline, no shape for the eye to rest upon, nothing for the hand to grasp. An obscurity that seemed without limit in space and time had submerged the universe like a destroying flood.”13 Nostromo (1904) also records the role physical context plays in perception: “In the featureless night Nostromo was not even certain which way the lighter headed after the wind had completely died out. He peered for the islands. There was not a hint of them to be seen, as if they had sunk to the bottom of the gulf.”14 In each of these works, the space outside the characters’ immediate vision ceases to exist in the nocturnal darkness.

An even more pronounced effect of physical context occurs in Marlow’s encounter with the white fog in “Heart of Darkness,” where his experience of space oscillates as the fog appears, then disappears, and then reappears:

When the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm and clammy and more blinding than the night. It did not shift or drive, it was just there standing all round you like something solid. At eight or nine perhaps, it lifted, as a shutter lifts. We had a glimpse of the towering multitude of trees, of the immense matted jungle, with the blazing little ball of the sun hanging over it—all perfectly still—and then the white shutter came down again, smoothly, as if sliding in greased grooves.

(HD, p. 83)15

A “towering multitude of trees” and an “immense matted jungle” stand just feet from the steamboat, but the fog prevents Marlow from perceiving the space of the jungle that’s so near. When the fog lifts, he perceives another space—until the fog returns. Shortly afterward, Marlow again experiences space changing through a change in physical context: “What we could see was just the steamer we were on, her outlines blurred as though she had been on the point of dissolving, and a misty strip of water perhaps two feet broad all around her—and that was all. The rest of the world was nowhere as far as our eyes and ears were concerned. Just nowhere. Gone, disappeared; swept off without leaving a whisper or a shadow behind” (HD, p. 84). Marlow knows the solid space of the steamer cannot actually dissolve, but when the fog flows in, the edges of the steamer seem to disappear, together with all the surrounding space of the river and jungle. [End Page 104]

Along with the role physical context plays in altering the experience of space, subjectivity itself influences spatial experience. In the 1919 “Author’s Note” to A Personal Record (1912), Conrad reminiscences on a moment from his youth:

All I remember distinctly is one room, white and crimson, probably the drawing-room. In one of its walls there was the loftiest of all archways. Where it led to remains a mystery; but to this day I cannot get rid of the belief that all this was of enormous proportions, and that the people appearing and disappearing in that immense space were beyond the usual stature of mankind as I got to know it in later life.16

Conrad knows this room is not immense but is instead of normal size. However, his perception of the room, filtered through his youthful consciousness, results in a room of enormous proportions—by subjective rather than objective measurement. Conrad could not access that space other than through his own subjectivity, and since he now recalls the room from memory, it retains its enormity. No intervening experience or knowledge can change its proportions in his mind; only if he were to encounter this space again—with adult subjectivity—might its dimensions change. Here, Conrad’s private and public pasts, and even the physical context, have little to do with the difference between subjective and objective space. Instead, the incongruity rests in the gap between subjective spatial experience and objective spatial reality.

Unlike the scene from Conrad’s youth, more often, one’s private and public pasts strongly affect subjective space. In “Prince Roman” (1911), the title character’s private past plays a prominent role in his perception of one specific segment of space:

He would have felt as completely lonely and abandoned as a man in the toils of a cruel nightmare if it had not been for this countryside where he had been born and had spent his happy boyish years. He knew it well—every slight rise crowned with trees amongst the ploughed fields, every dell concealing a village. … And this familiar landscape associated with the days without thought and without sorrow, this land the charm of which he felt without even looking at it soothed his pain, like the presence of an old friend who sits silent and disregarded by one in some dark hour of life.17

Others seeing this space would not experience it as Roman does. For them, it may be beautiful or bleak, or something else entirely, but [End Page 105] it would not be what Roman sees. His private past, infused with the pleasant memories that envelope this space, allows him to perceive it with nostalgia and invest it with an affirmation others could not. When Peyrol in The Rover (1923) returns to France after a fifty-year absence, he experiences a similar landscape in a similar way: “Every feature of the country … appealed to him with a sort of strange familiarity, because they had remained unchanged since the days of his boyhood.”18 And, “Citizen Peyrol gazed at the scene of his young misery with the greatest possible placidity. Here he was after nearly fifty years, and to look at things it seemed like yesterday” (R, p. 9). The Giens peninsula has in fact changed, since time changes all material space, but Peyrol perceives only the landscape of his youth and chooses to settle there because of the familiarity he feels—a familiarity that others, with different private pasts, could not feel.

Rather differently, the private past of the captain in The Shadow-Line (1917) influences how he perceives the space of his new command:

A ship! My ship! She was mine; more absolutely mine for possession and care than anything in the world; an object of responsibility and devotion. She was there waiting for me, spellbound, unable to move, to live, to get out into the world (till I came), like an enchanted princess. … I didn’t know how she looked, I had barely heard her name—and yet we were indissolubly united for a certain portion of our future to sink or swim together!19

In contrast to “Prince Roman” and The Rover, long-standing experience does not cause the new captain to experience this ship uniquely. In fact, at this moment, he has yet to even see the ship, but his imagination already envisions this segment of space differently from similar segments, and four days later—when he actually does see his new ship—it appears just as he had earlier perceived it in his mind’s eye:

Like some rare women, she was one of those creatures whose mere existence is enough to awaken an unselfish delight. One feels that it is good to be in the world in which she has her being. … In all parts of the world washed by navigable waters our relation to each other would be the same—and more intimate than there are words to express in the language.

(SL, pp. 45–46)

The captain’s immediate experience differs from Roman’s and Peyrol’s extended experiences, but each belongs to the perceiver’s private past, [End Page 106] and the captain’s newly altered private past causes him to see the space of the ship as he does and to see his existence bound up with it when his being blurs with the ship’s. For others, this piece of space is simply a ship, like any other; they cannot perceive it as the captain does, because for him it has become the culmination of his maritime career.

One of the most striking examples of the effect of the private past occurs in The Secret Agent (1907). After Winnie murders her husband, Adolf Verloc, she determines to drown herself in the Thames rather than be hanged, but falters along the way:

Each step cost her an effort of will which seemed the last possible. … “To the bridge—and over I go,” she repeated to herself with fierce obstinacy. She put out her hand just in time to steady herself against a lamp-post. “I’ll never get there before morning,” she thought. The fear of death paralysed her efforts to escape the gallows. It seemed to her she had been staggering in that street for hours. “I’ll never get there,” she thought. “They’ll find me knocking about the streets. It’s too far.” … She pushed the lamp-post away from her violently, and found herself walking. But another wave of faintness overtook her like a great sea, washing away her heart clean out of her breast. “I will never get there,” she muttered, suddenly arrested, swaying lightly where she stood. “Never.”20

Winnie’s private past affects how she experiences the space that lies between her and the Thames. Her fear of death causes the objective space she must travel through to meld with her subjective past, resulting in space elongating far beyond its measurable extension. Thus the boundaries between subjectivity and objectivity merge, and Winnie experiences a spatial segment unique to herself and her circumstances.

Like Winnie’s experience, Verloc’s private past plays an important part in how he perceives space. His world turns on end when Mr. Vladimir requires him to commit a “series of outrages” (SA, p. 28), beginning with the bombing of the Greenwich Meridian Observatory. Verloc instantly recognizes the danger to himself and his existence, and this experience alters his perception of space. Unlike Winnie, however, Verloc perceives space as both contracting and expanding—at the same moment. Michael Haltresht notes that, alone in his bedroom at night, “the secret agent feels such a sense of suffocation that, instead of going to bed, he keeps pacing the room, his hands ‘worrying nervously at his throat’ [SA, p. 48] as though he were trying to unbutton a tight collar.”21 To escape this suffocation, Verloc continues to undress, but the feeling remains, and, as if to expand space beyond the confines of his compressed bedroom, [End Page 107] he pulls up “violently the venetian blind, and lean[s] his forehead against the cold window pane.” This gesture fails, though, because the space outside expands beyond Verloc’s usual perception: “A fragile film of glass” stretches “between him and the enormity of cold, black, wet, muddy, inhospitable accumulation of bricks, slates, and stones, things themselves unlovely and unfriendly to man.” Verloc feels “the latent unfriendliness of all out of doors with a force approaching to positive bodily anguish” (SA, p. 48).

As he peers through the thin veil separating compressed and expanded space, Verloc begins to hallucinate, and imagines that Mr. Vladimir’s face floats just outside. He associates this event with an enormous and inhospitable spatial expanse on the other side of the glass, as this face becomes “impressed on the fatal darkness.” He then abruptly flees from the image: “This luminous and mutilated vision was so ghastly physically” that Verloc starts away “from the window, letting down the venetian blind with a great rattle.” Verloc is “discomposed and speechless,” feeling “hopelessly lonely in the world” (SA, p. 48).

Haltresht contends that this scene discloses Verloc’s psychological dread of space,22 but it is less a dread of space than a dread of the danger he foresees; this danger, a newly acquired element of his personal past, influences his perception of space, and objective space becomes subjective space. Inside the compressed space of his bedroom, Verloc suffocates, while outside, in the expanded space of “all out of doors,” he feels “positive bodily anguish” as the “enormity” of that space confronts him (SA, p. 48). But both perceptions result from the same private past, a past that causes objective space to compress and expand simultaneously.

Similar to one’s private past, one’s public past strongly influences subjective space. In “Heart of Darkness,” for instance, Marlow consistently reveals how his public past disorients his spatial experience in Africa:

You lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once—somewhere—far away—in another existence perhaps. There were moments when one’s past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare for yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence.

(HD, p. 77) [End Page 108]

Soon after, Marlow clarifies this sentiment: “We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse” (HD, p. 79). The space Marlow experiences bewilders him, and “when one’s past” (Marlow’s cultural experience) “[comes] back to one,” it only makes the present perception of space more foreign. In fact, Marlow’s disorientation begins the instant he first encounters Africa: “Every day the coast looked the same, as though we had not moved” (HD, p. 54). The coast does change, but in Marlow’s public past, houses, bridges, roads, fences, factories, and other structures of human habitation mark out, divide up, and otherwise transform uncivilized space. He finds this fragmenting familiar, and it allows him to identify spatial distinctions. Without it, space appears homogenous.

The African coast is not, of course, homogenous, but Marlow can only experience it as such because he has no past with which to engage it otherwise, perceiving a “formless coast” where “Nature herself had tried to ward off intruders” (HD, p. 55). Nor does Marlow ever grow accustomed to the African landscape: “The long reaches that were like one and the same reach, monotonous bends that were exactly alike, slipped past the steamer with their multitude of secular trees looking patiently after this grimy fragment of another world, the forerunner of change, of conquest, of trade, of massacres, of blessings” (HD, p. 116). Carlier and Kayerts, in “An Outpost of Progress” (1897), are equally troubled by this landscape: “The river, the forest, all the great land throbbing with life were like a great emptiness. Even the brilliant sunshine disclosed nothing intelligible.”23 The Africans on the coast, however, know only such space, and their experience with unsegmented space wholly differs because their public past differs: “They wanted no excuse for being there” (HD, p. 54). Elsewhere, Marlow contrasts the Western “intruders,” who view the landscape space as homogenous, with the cannibals, who “still belonged to the beginnings of time—had no inherited experience to teach them” (HD, p. 85); that is, they had no inherited experience to teach them to perceive the African wilderness as the Westerners do.

Lena’s experience in Victory (1915) resembles Marlow’s. Upon climbing to Samburan’s highest point, she and Heyst emerge from the trees to confront the unbroken ocean expanse. As Lena gazes toward the sea, she remarks, “It makes my head swim,” to which Heyst responds, “You don’t like to look at the sea from up there?” In reply, Lena “shook her head. That empty space was to her the abomination of desolation. But she only said again: ‘It makes my head swim.’” Heyst then inquires, [End Page 109] “Too big?” But Lena demurs: “Too lonely. It makes my heart sink, too.”24 She then elaborates: “It seems as if everything that there is had gone under” (V, 191).

Lena’s public past contains a full and bustling London, and so the empty ocean is “the abomination of desolation”—space emptied of physical objects and human subjects and wholly opposed to her cultural experience. Heyst, by temperament a loner and by experience accustomed to isolated space, does not perceive “the abomination of desolation” (despite the public past he experienced while growing up in Europe); his new public past has made the expanse familiar, as his present experience overshadows his previous experience. But for Lena, whose public past runs so counter to this scene, this void can only be desolate.

Since context alters how a subject experiences a particular spatial entity, the same segment of space can change from one individual to the next. The different public pasts of the characters in Under Western Eyes (1911), for example, result in different experiences of the same spatial entity. Much of Under Western Eyes takes place in Geneva, but the Russian expatriates do not perceive the city in the same way as the Swiss or even the English narrator, who remarks,

The shadow of autocracy all unperceived by me had already fallen upon the Boulevard des Philosophes, in the free, independent and democratic city of Geneva. … Whenever two Russians come together, the shadow of autocracy is with them, tinging their thoughts, their views, their most intimate feelings, their private life, their public utterances—haunting the secret of their silences.25

Even in “the free, independent and democratic city of Geneva,” the Russians feel the weight of autocracy, and thus experience a different Geneva. The narrator notes that, as an Englishman, he does not see the Geneva the Russians do, but he also contrasts the Russians’ experience with that of the Swiss: “In the very middle of it [Geneva] I observed a solitary Swiss couple whose fate was made secure from the cradle to the grave by the perfected mechanism of democratic institutions in a republic that could almost be held in the palm of one’s hand” (UWE, p. 138). The Russians’ public past is dominated by their suffering in tsarist Russia. They are exiles who have fled government oppression but not their public past, and so when they encounter Geneva they see an oppressive segment of space. The narrator and the Swiss feel at ease, [End Page 110] perceiving a place of comfort, security, and predictability where the Russians perceive a place of suspicion, anxiety, and cynicism.

Nostromo recounts a similar scene involving differing public pasts. Amar Acheraïou correctly notes that Emilia Gould changes over time through her greater interaction with the space of Costaguana, the fictional Latin American country in which the story is set.26 At the same time, though, the landscape itself changes, altering through the lens of Emilia’s public past. At one point, her husband Charles chides her: “My dear, you seem to forget that I was born here” (N, p. 49), emphasizing their different public pasts and their resulting different perceptions of Costaguana. Later, Don José Avellanos suggests something else: “As to you, Emilia, … you are as true a patriot as though you had been born in our midst,” but the narrator clarifies this thought: “This might have been less or more than the truth. Mrs. Gould … had seen the land with a deeper glance than a true-born Costaguanera could have done” (N, p. 86). Emilia may be as patriotic as any Costaguanera, but—because of her European past—she perceives the space of Costaguana differently, seeing it, in fact, “with a deeper glance” than a native. The land’s history and other aspects, which a Costaguanera does not notice or question, cause Emilia to pause, inquire, and finally view a Costaguana the natives cannot.

With Geneva and Costaguana, alternate public pasts resulted in alternate experiences of the same spatial entity, but in “The Secret Sharer,” set on board a ship in the South China Sea, differing private pasts cause individuals to experience the same spatial entity differently. Near the end of the story, Leggatt, a passenger accused of murder, asks the ship’s captain to maroon him in order to escape the authorities. As the captain contemplates the circumstances, he determines to let Leggatt off near the island of Koh-ring, telling him, “It’s the best chance for you that I can see.”27 Later, Koh-ring will come to represent freedom for Leggatt but danger for the captain. As the captain brings the ship close to land so that Leggatt can swim to shore, he suddenly recognizes the threat posed by the rocky coast. As the “shadow of Koh-ring” looms over them (SS, p. 117), the captain laments, “I swung the mainyard and waited helplessly. She was perhaps stopped, and her very fate hung in the balance with the black mass of Koh-ring like the gate of the everlasting night towering over the taffrail” (SS, p. 118). What Leggatt perceives as a space of hope and freedom is for the captain a space of danger and destruction. Both Leggatt and the captain see the same objective spatial entity—the island of Koh-ring located at a particular point of longitude [End Page 111] and latitude—but their different private pasts result in their perceiving a different spatial entity.

An analogous experience occurs in The Shadow-Line, but in this case individuals respond to a specific spatial coordinate: the latitude 8˚ 20´. To the new captain, this place is simply a coordinate at the entrance to the Gulf of Thailand, a spot the ship will cross en route to Singapore, but for the ship’s first mate, Mr. Burns, latitude 8˚ 20´ is something else entirely. Like the captain, he recognizes this space as a particular coordinate, but unlike him, Burns sees a cursed space that marks the spot where he buried his late captain (who he insists sought to destroy the ship). Most of the crew is near death with fever, and Burns believes the previous captain has caused this deadly calm, reaching out from his grave to keep the ship from crossing that line: “the late captain, that old man buried in latitude 8˚ 20´, right in our way—ambushed at the entrance of the Gulf” (SL, p. 67). Later, Burns even apologizes: “He was sorry he had to bury our late captain right in the ship’s way, as one may say, out of the Gulf” (SL, p. 68) and asserts that “the great thing is to get the ship past the 8˚ 20´ of latitude. Once she’s past that we’re all right” (SL, p. 71).

Having traveled to Bangkok from Singapore, the ship’s new captain had direct personal experience with latitude 8˚ 20´. For him, that spatial coordinate is essentially the same as any other along the route, but Burns attaches great significance to that space, and their different private pasts result in different spaces occupying the same physical coordinate.

In each of these scenes, characters experience the same space differently through the variation in their private or public pasts, but since all experience is contextualized, a single individual may also experience the same space differently when the context changes. Marlow’s perception of space in his last view of Jim is one instance (LJ, p. 253); the narrator’s perception of Koh-ring in The Shadow-Line is another. The captain travels from Singapore to Bangkok to take command of his ship, a route that takes him within sight of Koh-ring. For the captain, Koh-ring is an island much like any other in the Gulf of Thailand. In fact, he does not even note its existence while traveling to Bangkok. Koh-ring occupies a specific space in longitude and latitude, and the island would seem to remain the same objective entity when several days later he passes it on his return voyage to Singapore, but instead Koh-ring becomes another spatial object.28 When the ship encounters a dead calm, with most of its crew ill and lacking adequate medicine, the island transforms from the space the captain had previously encountered: [End Page 112]

The island of Koh-ring … seemed to be the centre of the fatal circle. It seemed impossible to get away from it. Day after day it remained in sight. More than once, in a favourable breeze, I would take its bearings in the fast ebbing twilight, thinking that it was for the last time. Vain hope. A night of fitful airs would undo the gains of temporary favour, and the rising sun would throw out the black relief of Koh-ring, looking more barren, inhospitable, and grim than ever.

(SL, p. 69)

The captain then further reveals his changed perception: “The sun had risen clear of the southern shoulder of Koh-ring, which still hung, like an evil attendant, on our port quarter. It was intensely hateful to my sight” (SL, p. 71). Because of his newly altered private past, the narrator comes to view the island as “barren,” “inhospitable,” “grim,” and even “hateful,” when previously it had not even warranted comment. In its new context, Koh-ring has become another space.

Verloc’s experience of the space of London also changes as his private past changes. As he walks through London on his way to meet Mr. Vladimir,

the very pavement under Mr Verloc’s feet had an old gold tinge in that diffused light, in which neither wall, nor tree, nor beast, nor man cast a shadow. Mr Verloc was going westward through a town without shadows in an atmosphere of powdered old gold. There were red, coppery gleams on the roofs of houses, on the corners of walls, on the panels of carriages, on the very coats of the horses, and on the broad back of Mr Verloc’s overcoat. … He surveyed through the park railings the evidences of the town’s opulence and luxury with an approving eye.

(SA, p. 15)

As Sue Tyley has observed, “In consequence of the threat to his self-complacence and indolence presented by the interview with Vladimir, however, his [Verloc’s] attitude changes, and the town becomes an ‘enormity of cold, black, wet, muddy, inhospitable accumulation of bricks, slates, and stones, things in themselves unlovely and unfriendly to man’ [SA, p. 48].”29

But Verloc’s attitude alone does not change. Instead, he experiences a different London. His conversation with Mr. Vladimir alters his private past, and a changed London emerges. While Verloc sees himself comfortably ensconced in the city, he experiences an amenable place, one worth protecting: “All these people had to be protected. Protection is the first necessity of opulence and luxury. They had to be protected; and their horses, carriages, houses, servants had to be protected; and [End Page 113] the source of their wealth had to be protected in the heart of the city and the heart of the country” (SA, p. 15). When Mr. Vladimir sets him to attack this pleasant place, however, Verloc envisions his way of life crumbling and himself destitute. In this moment, Verloc’s private past alters, and London is no longer amenable but detestable. Not only does his attitude toward the city change from hopeful to hateful, but London itself also changes for him, from pavement with an “old gold tinge in that diffused light” in “an atmosphere of powdered old gold” with “red, coppery gleams on the roofs of houses” (SA, p. 15) to an “enormity of cold, black, wet, muddy, inhospitable accumulation of bricks, slates and stones” (SA, p. 48). Nor is this a temporary state, since Verloc’s private past continues to transform his perception of space, in fact expanding this newly inhospitable space beyond even the boundaries of London: “Mr. Verloc went on divesting himself of his clothing with the unnoticing inward concentration of a man undressing in the solitude of a vast and hopeless desert. For thus inhospitably did this fair earth, our common inheritance, present itself to the mental vision of Mr. Verloc” (SA, p. 137).

Similarly, in “The Duel” (1908), changes in General D’Hubert’s private past also change his experience of a particular portion of space, but unlike Verloc and the captain in The Shadow-Line, D’Hubert’s perception alters from one moment to the next. For years, D’Hubert has been forced to fight a series of duels with Feraud, a fellow officer in Napoleon’s army, who refuses to give up the conflict. He even accuses D’Hubert of never having loved Napoleon. Years after the wars have ended, D’Hubert has become engaged and travels to Paris, which he initially experiences as a positive place: “General D’Hubert went about his affairs in Paris feeling inwardly very happy with the peculiar uplifting happiness of a man very much in love.”30 As D’Hubert travels about the city, his past experience of Paris together with his present experience of being in love influence the space he encounters, and Paris is, for him, a happy place. His perception suddenly shifts, however, when his private past alters as he overhears some former soldiers in the Café Tortoni question his loyalty to Napoleon, bringing Feraud back into D’Hubert’s consciousness. Afterward, he perceives with disgust the space he traverses, the same space he so recently perceived positively: “General D’Hubert experienced the horror of a somnambulist who wakes up from a complacent dream of activity to find himself walking on a quagmire. A profound disgust of the ground on which he was making his way overcame him” (D, p. 224). The objective space has not changed, but D’Hubert’s private past has changed, and Paris is no longer the space he had so recently encountered. [End Page 114]

This same phenomenon occurs in Under Western Eyes, but with many more layers. At the outset of the novel, Razumov, a student at the University of St. Petersburg, ponders his future as he returns home from class: “Distinction would convert the label Razumov into an honoured name.” He then resolves “to have a good try for the silver medal” offered by the Ministry of Education. While slowly climbing “the four flights of the dark, dirty staircase in the house where he had his lodgings, he felt confident of success. … With those ideas of industry in his head the warmth of his room was agreeable and encouraging. ‘I shall put in four hours of good work,’ he thought” (UWE, p. 19). Razumov lives in an obscure apartment, but he perceives it as “agreeable and encouraging.” The success he envisions for his studies transforms this space from the neutral place he undoubtedly first perceived it to be, to the positive place it has become. Others, with different private pasts, would merely see an apartment, the same as so many others. In the context of Razumov’s contemplated future, though, the room becomes for him a space of hope.

Upon entering his room, however, Razumov finds Victor Haldin, a fellow student, waiting for him, and Haldin initiates the events that upset the context through which Razumov experiences that space. When Haldin reveals he has sought refuge there after assassinating a Russian minister, an exclamation springs to Razumov’s mind: “There goes my silver medal!” (UWE, p. 20). This exclamation proves prophetic. Thereafter, Razumov’s room will no longer be a space of hope; the following morning, he surveys this space:

The light coming through the window seemed strangely cheerless, containing no promise as the light of each new day should for a young man. … He looked at the lamp which had burnt itself out. It stood there, the extinguished beacon of his labours, a cold object of brass and porcelain, amongst the scattered pages of his notes and small piles of books—a mere litter of blackened paper—dead matter—without significance or interest.

(UWE, pp. 58–59)

Both the objects associated with his work (lamp, notes, books) and the space where it occurred (his room) are now “dead matter.” In fact, they have become emblems of his now-failed future.

Further emphasizing the role of context, this space changes yet again. Immediately after Haldin’s betrayal, Razumov “dreaded” his room. It “might conceivably have become physically repugnant to him, emotionally intolerable, morally uninhabitable,” but in fact, it does not: [End Page 115]

On the contrary, he liked his lodgings better than any other shelter he, who had never known a home, had ever hired before. He liked his lodgings so well that often, on that very account, he found a certain difficulty in making up his mind to go out. It resembled a physical seduction such as, for instance, makes a man reluctant to leave the neighbourhood of a fire on a cold day.

(UWE, p. 229)

This unexpected view develops from what Razumov encounters elsewhere: “Whenever he went abroad he felt himself at once closely involved in the moral consequence of his act. It was there that the dark prestige of the Haldin mystery fell on him, clung to him like a poisoned robe: it was impossible to fling off” (UWE, p. 229). Away from his room, Razumov is constantly connected to Haldin—by the revolutionaries who consider him a co-conspirator and by the authorities who first suspect him of complicity and then later claim him as a compatriot. Razumov laments:

All this was bad. And all this was Haldin, always Haldin—nothing but Haldin—everywhere Haldin: a moral spectre infinitely more effective than any visible apparition of the dead. It was only the room through which that man had blundered on his way from crime to death that his spectre did not seem to be able to haunt. … His unwillingness to leave that place where he was safe from Haldin grew so strong that at last he ceased to go out at all.

(UWE, p. 230)

Because of his experience outside, Razumov’s room becomes a sanctuary where he can escape Haldin. In this progression of subjective spaces occupying the same objective location, Razumov first perceives his room as a neutral space, then successively as a space of hope, a space of dread, and, finally, a space of refuge. At each point, as his private past changes, this segment of space also changes.

More often, though, neither physical context nor personal context alone brings about the uniqueness of each phenomenal event; rather, these factors combine with subject and object, as happens in Marlow’s last view of Jim when the subjectivity of Marlow, the objectivity of space, the physical elements of the scene, and the personal context of Marlow’s private and public past combine to create a singular event. [End Page 116]


At one point in Under Western Eyes, Peter Ivanovitch muses, “But what is knowledge?” (UWE, p. 97), and Conrad often seems to ask the same question. As can be seen in these various instances of subjective space in his works, the merging of contexts often results in bewildering perceptual incidents that complicate epistemological inquiry.31 Adriaan De Lange has argued of Conrad’s fiction, “From the earliest novels, through to Suspense, the fiction invariably deals with a bewilderment caused by discontinuities in the experience of space and time.”32 Ian Watt first labeled such bewilderment “delayed decoding,” a situation that reveals a perceptual shift where a character first experiences phenomena one way and soon afterward experiences those same phenomena another way.33 Perhaps the most prominent incident occurs during the attack on the steamboat in “Heart of Darkness,” when a puzzled Marlow remarks, “Sticks, little sticks, were flying about, thick,” only to abruptly revise his initial perception a few lines later and exclaim: “Arrows by Jove! We were being shot at!” (HD, p. 89).

Watt views these scenes as perceptual errors that the character then decodes and corrects, suggesting that Conrad “takes us directly into the observer’s consciousness at the very moment of the perception, before it has been translated into its cause, … which makes the sense-events of the outside world intelligible and communicable to others.”34 However, I view them not as incorrect perceptions followed by correct perceptions but rather as two separate perceptions that differ through context. Marlow first sees sticks, but sticks make no sense, so he must make present perception align with past experience. Therefore, he comes to see these objects as arrows, which accords with the context of physical surroundings and current events, as well as Marlow’s private and public pasts (the threatening cry from the shore, previous conflicts with Africans, and so on). Once context comes to bear, Marlow no longer views these objects as sticks but as arrows; in effect, they are different objects.

This same phenomenon occurs with the perception of space. In “The Idiots” (1896), Susan Bacadou has murdered her husband after he tried to rape her, and believes his ghost is pursuing her. Fleeing, she runs past Millot, one of the townspeople, and rushes to the edge of a cliff: she “at once vanished before his [Millot’s] eyes as if the islet itself had swerved aside from under her feet. Millot rushed forward, and fell flat with his chin over the edge. Far below he saw the water whitened [End Page 117] by her struggles.”35 Under Western Eyes recalls a similar circumstance. When General T—asks Razumov why Haldin had sought him out and disclosed his role in an assassination, “It seemed to Razumov that the floor was moving slightly” (UWE, p. 44). Razumov had feared such an inquiry, with its subtext suggesting complicity, and he is clearly shaken. This shift in Razumov’s private past causes him to see the floor move. Moments later, it no longer moves.

Winnie Verloc also has to decode a perceptual encounter: “She adopted that easy attitude not in order to watch or gloat over the body of Mr. Verloc, but because of the undulatory and swinging movements of the parlour, which for some time behaved as though it were at sea in a tempest. She was giddy but calm” (SA, p. 198). Winnie sees the parlor moving and then seamlessly shifts that movement to herself, ascribing the bewildering perception to her own giddiness rather than to the actions of the room, as she brings her private past to bear on present circumstances to result in a perception congruent with her prior experience.

Unlike Marlow’s perception of sticks/arrows, Millot, Razumov, and Winnie experience only the briefest gap between initial and revised perceptions. Millot sees the islet swerve from under Susan’s feet but almost immediately recognizes that she and not the islet has moved. Razumov sees the floor move but the very next moment perceives its immobility. Winnie sees the parlor swaying but nearly instantly acknowledges her own giddiness. Consequently, a subtle difference emerges between the decoding of objects and the decoding of space. When in “Heart of Darkness” Marlow first sees sticks and then arrows (p. 89) or a cane and then a spear (pp. 90–91), or in “Youth” when he thinks someone shoves him when instead the deck of the Judea explodes,36 he experiences something that is logically possible—sticks could fly about or the helmsman could grasp a cane or someone could shove Marlow—and so a delay elapses between initial perception and subsequent perception while Marlow draws upon past experience and current context to reconsider his initial perception, ultimately arriving at a perception in accord with present circumstances.

However, Millot’s initial perception that the islet swerves and Razumov’s that the floor moves and Winnie’s that the parlor sways are so far removed from physical probability that their revised perceptions follow right upon their initial perceptions. Nevertheless, a gap—however brief—remains between initial perception and subsequent perception, and the result resembles those incidents involving the perception of objects that require a greater gap between initial and subsequent [End Page 118] perception. As with all other objects of consciousness, the interconnectedness of subject, object, and context leads to a unique experience of space.

In the unique experiences of space that Conrad represents, a subjective human experience emerges. An objective rendering of space is perhaps measurably possible but inaccessible to humans, because all encounters with space must pass through individual consciousness and all depend on circumstances (physical surroundings as well as private and public pasts). Therefore, no single Koh-ring exists but rather infinite Koh-rings—all limited by the perceiving subjects and the context in which that space is perceived.

As Conrad renders the human perception of space, he also places his readers in the position of his characters so that they experience the fictional phenomena much as his characters do. By so doing, Conrad resists radical solipsism. Employing delayed decoding, limited angles of view, impressionist in medias res, and other similar techniques allows readers to approximate (though not fully reenact) a particular character’s experience of a particular object of consciousness at a particular place and time. Furthermore, although the captain in The Shadow-Line sees his ship as one thing and Burns sees it as another, they share the knowledge that it is a ship; just as the captain in “The Secret Sharer” sees Koh-ring as one thing and Leggett sees it as another, both recognize it to be a particular island. Still, a perceptual gap remains between the reader’s experience and the character’s experience, between one character’s experience and another character’s experience, between one character’s experience in one context and that same character’s experience in another context; and by revealing this gap, Conrad reaches further than mere perceptual or narrative accuracy. These inquiries also become the catalyst for considering a much larger issue: the acquisition of knowledge. More specifically, the relativity surrounding the experience of space (and all other objects of consciousness) leads to the broader epistemological question of the nature of knowledge itself.

Since one’s connection to space is inextricable from one’s sensory perception, most individuals consider sensory perception to be a primary means for obtaining knowledge and tend to trust implicitly what they see, hear, taste, smell, or touch, but Conrad forces his readers to question such assumptions. And if what we assume to be most certain (sensory perception) is in fact far from certain, then one can know nothing with complete confidence. When Millot sees the islet swerve or when Razumov perceives the floor move or when Winnie finds the [End Page 119] parlor swaying, each is experiencing an objectively measurable impossibility. Short of earthquakes or explosions, neither islets nor floors nor parlors move, but all three see unmoving spatial segments move—only to see them unmoving again moments later. As with all other examples of delayed decoding, Millot’s, Razumov’s, and Winnie’s perceptions of moving and then unmoving space call into question the reliability of sensory perception. In the end, these perceptual anomalies demonstrate Conrad’s concurrent doubt concerning the inviolability of sensory knowledge.

Not only narrative techniques point to this conclusion, however; instead, all of Conrad’s investigations into the relationship among subject, object, and context end with the limitations of knowledge and hence its ultimate uncertainty. When Marlow concludes, “I am fated never to see him [Jim] clearly” (LJ, p. 183), or when he says that “it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence. … We live, as we dream—alone” (HD, p. 70), Conrad acknowledges that one can neither fully escape one’s own consciousness nor fully penetrate that of another. When Winnie assumes that the hall clock must have stopped when in fact only two minutes have elapsed since she murdered Verloc (SA, p. 202), Conrad emphasizes the disconnect between the time clocks measure and the time we experience. When he employs multiple narrators in Lord Jim, he is less intent on justifying how Marlow knows what he knows than in demonstrating how different people see the same event differently. And when Razumov perceives one Russia while Haldin perceives another, and the English narrator yet another, Conrad shows that space, like all other objects of consciousness, depends upon the interaction of subject, object, and context, a relationship that limits all knowledge to the context in which it occurs and precludes any certainty beyond those constraints. Consequently, Conrad’s investigations into subjective space, like his investigations into the perception of objects, subjects, events, and time, ultimately lead to the conclusion that knowledge is contingent—an individual rather than a universal phenomenon. [End Page 120]

John G. Peters
University of North Texas


1. Homi K. Bhabha, “DissemiNation: Time, Narrative and the Margins of the Modern Nation,” in Nation and Narration, ed. Homi K. Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990), pp. 291–322.

2. Con Coroneos, Space, Conrad, and Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 2.

3. See Katherine Isobel Baxter, “The Strange Spaces of The Rescue,” The Conradian 29, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 64–83; Robert Hampson, “Conrad’s Heterotopic Fiction: Composite Maps, Superimposed Sites, and Impossible Spaces,” in Conrad in the Twenty-First Century: Contemporary Approaches and Perspectives, ed. Carola Kaplan, Peter Lancelot Mallios, and Andrea White (New York: Routledge, 2005), pp. 121–35; Cesare Casarino, Modernity at Sea: Melville, Marx, Conrad in Crisis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), pp. 184–244; Sanjay Krishnan, “Seeing the Animal: Colonial Space and Movement in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim,” Novel 37, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 326–51; Harry Sewlall, “Postcolonial/Postmodern Spatiality in Almayer’s Folly and An Outcast of the Islands,” Conradiana 38, no. 1 (2006): 79–93; Padmini Mongia, “‘Ghosts of the gothic’: Spectral Women and Colonized Spaces in Lord Jim,” The Conradian 17, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 1–16; Attie de Lange, “‘Reading’ and ‘Constructing’ Space, Gender and Race: Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and J. M. Coetzee’s Foe,” in Literary Landscapes: From Modernism to Postcolonialism, ed. Attie de Lange et al. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 109–24; Merry W. Pawloski, “Conrad’s Voyage In and Woolf’s The Voyage Out: Gender and the Production of Cultural Space,” in Conrad at the Millennium: Modernism, Postmodernism, Postcolonialism, ed. Gail Fincham, Attie de Lange, and Wiesław Krajka (Boulder: Social Science Monographs, 2001), pp. 119–37; Wesley A. Kort, Place and Space in Modern Fiction (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004), pp. 46–64; Joanna Mstowska, “Inner Sea Space in Joseph Conrad’s Youth and The Mirror of the Sea,” in Exploring Space: Spatial Notions in Cultural, Literary and Language Studies, ed. Andrzej Ciuk and Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2010), pp. 158–65; Sarah Dauncey, “‘The islands are very quiet’: Space and Silence in Conrad’s Victory,” Conradiana 42, no. 1–2 (2010): 141–54; and Nathalie Martinière, “Symbolic Space and Narrative Focus: The Cabin in Conrad’s Sea Stories,” The Conradian 27, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 24–38.

4. See Michel Foucault, “Des espace autres,” Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité 5 (1984): 46–49.

5. See Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), and Henri LeFebvre, La production de l’espace (Paris: Anthropos, 1974).

6. Gaston Bachelard, La poétique de l’espace (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1957).

7. Geographical space is, of course, relevant to material space and has been a crucial development in spatial studies, but its emphasis on nation, borders, history, politics, cultural space, and other related matters place it outside the scope of the epistemological experience of embodied space that is the focus of this study.

8. John G. Peters, Conrad and Impressionism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 16–19.

9. Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness,” in Youth, Heart of Darkness, The End of the Tether, ed. Owen Knowles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 77; hereafter abbreviated HD. [End Page 121]

10. Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, ed. J. H. Stape and Ernest Sullivan II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 253; hereafter abbreviated LJ.

11. Walter Pater, The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, ed. Donald L. Hill (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 189.

12. Joseph Conrad, Almayer’s Folly, ed. Floyd Eugene Eddleman and David Leon Higdon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 136.

13. Joseph Conrad, The Rescue (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), p. 241.

14. Joseph Conrad, Nostromo (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), p. 263; hereafter abbreviated N.

15. See also Conrad’s Almayer’s Folly: “To those two nothing existed then outside the gunwales of the narrow and fragile craft. It was their world, filled with their intense and all absorbing love. They took no heed of thickening mist, or of the breeze dying away before sunrise; they forgot the existence of the great forests surrounding them, of all the tropical nature awaiting the advent of the sun in a solemn and impressive silence” (p. 53).

16. Joseph Conrad, A Personal Record, ed. Zdzisław Najder and J. H. Stape (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 8.

17. Joseph Conrad, “Prince Roman,” in Tales of Hearsay (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), p. 38.

18. Joseph Conrad, The Rover (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), p. 6; hereafter abbreviated R.

19. Joseph Conrad, The Shadow-Line, ed. J. H. Stape and Allan H. Simmons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 38; hereafter abbreviated SL.

20. Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, ed. Bruce Harkness and S. W. Reid (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 202–3; hereafter abbreviated SA.

21. Michael Haltresht, “The Dread of Space in Conrad’s The Secret Agent,” Literature and Psychology 22, no. 2 (1972): 91.

22. Haltresht, “The Dread of Space,” p. 91.

23. Joseph Conrad, “An Outpost of Progress,” in Tales of Unrest, ed. Allan H. Simmons and J. H. Stape (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 81.

24. Joseph Conrad, Victory (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), p. 190; hereafter abbreviated V.

25. Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes, ed. Roger Osborne et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 88; hereafter abbreviated UWE.

26. Amar Acheraïou, “Joseph Conrad’s Poetics: Space and Time,” L’Epoque Conradienne 27 (2001): 42.

27. Joseph Conrad, “The Secret Sharer,” in ’Twixt Land and Sea, ed. J. A. Berthoud, Laura L. Davis, and S. W. Reid (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 112; hereafter abbreviated SS. [End Page 122]

28. Although the steamer to Bangkok would have taken a somewhat different route than the sailing ship on the return voyage, J. H. Stape has convincingly identified Kohring’s location to be at a point visible on either route; see J. H. Stape, “Topography in ‘The Secret Sharer,’” The Conradian 26, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 12–13.

29. Sue Tyley, “Time and Space in The Secret Agent,” The Conradian 8, no. 2 (Summer 1983): 32.

30. Joseph Conrad, “The Duel,” in A Set of Six (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), p. 222; hereafter abbreviated D.

31. For an enlightening, though different, view of epistemological bewilderment in Conrad, see Paul B. Armstrong’s The Challenge of Bewilderment: Understanding and Representation in James, Conrad, and Ford (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), pp. 1–25 and 109–85.

32. Adriaan M. De Lange, “Conrad and Impressionism: Problems and (Possible) Solutions,” in Conrad’s Literary Career, ed. Keith Carabine, Owen Knowles, and Wiesław Krajka (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1992), p. 21.

33. Ian Watt, “Pink Toads and Yellow Curs: An Impressionist Narrative Device in Lord Jim,” in Joseph Conrad Colloquy in Poland, 5–12 September 1972, ed. R. Jabłkowska (Warsaw: Polish Academy of Sciences, 1975), p. 12. Watt later expanded on these ideas in his Conrad in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), pp. 174–80 and 270–86.

34. Watt, Conrad in the Nineteenth Century, p. 175.

35. Conrad, “The Idiots,” in Tales of Unrest, p. 73.

36. Conrad, “Youth,” in Youth, Heart of Darkness, The End of the Tether, p. 25. [End Page 123]