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BOOK REVIEWS These include the insistence on the influence of what was felt to be the great menace of Chartism in determining attitudes to both poverty and crime, the balanced defense of Henry Mayhew's methodology in London Labour and the London Poor against the criticism of Gertrude Himmelfarb, the understanding analysis of Wilde's apparently paradoxical positions on poverty and crime, the discussion of the way in which Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came to support a suspicion that Jack the Ripper was from the upper classes, and the recognition of the relationship between the Gothic novel and fiction presenting West End crimes. WENDELL V. HARRIS __________________ Santa Fe, New Mexico Conrad & Narrative Michael Greaney. Conrad, Language, and Narrative. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. viii + 194 pp. $55.00 IN Of Grammatology, Derrida challenges the privileging in Western culture of the spoken voice. Michael Greaney's study of Conrad references Derrida's deconstruction of phonocentrism, and in so doing, challenges the now standard thesis that Conrad's later work marked a decline from his former achievements. In chronicling Conrad's shift away from phonocentrism, Greaney also complicates the straightforward downward trajectory of Conrad's career first posited by Tom Moser's important critical work, Joseph Conrad: Achievement and Decline (1966). Since at least 1974 and Edward Said's observation that Conrad's foregrounding of his narratives' dramatized, oral tellings served as his defense against language's insufficiency ("Conrad: The Presentation of Narrative," Novel, 7, Winter 1974, 116-32), readers and critics have scrutinized this polyglot writer's contentious relationship to language. As late as 1907, over ten years into his writing life, Conrad could complain that "English is still a foreign language to me, requiring an immense effort to handle." Greaney takes up this concern with Conrad's struggle with language, and in particular, the complex relations between speech and writing central to his fictions. Like Said, he situates that struggle in terms of Benjamin's "The Storyteller" in which Benjamin notes the shift underway at the turn of the century from storytelling , as the transmitting of useful information to a like-minded community , to the solitary act of novel-writing. This shift was one that Conrad's fiction enacted, both Said and Greaney maintain. Although 470 ELT 47 : 4 2004 Conrad shared Benjamin's nostalgia for that ideal oral community, Greaney argues, his fiction increasingly gives way to skepticism about the possibilities of any "authentic" discourse, either spoken or written. While that ideal speech community is at times posited, especially in Outcast of the Islands, it is never fully realized, Greaney maintains. In fact, Greaney argues that the central tension within Conrad's fiction is located between "the utopian dimension" in his work and the written textuality of modernism. Although Conrad repeatedly tried to replicate in his stories the storytelling ideal that worked to retain the connection to oral tradition, a definite shift can be located in The Secret Agent, after which, Conrad's fiction grew "more sophisticated" and "less hospitable" to the reader. At the outer reaches of this increasing suspicion of language and diminishing faith in Utopian dreams of oral modes of storytelling, Greaney locates Under Western Eyes, the subject of his culminating discussion. His convictions about Conrad's fiction lead to novel and rather adventurous groupings. In Part I, he addresses the various speech communities in Conrad's fiction, from the nautical writings and the early Malay fiction in which the storytelling model of ideal oral communities of tellers and listeners is most unproblematically represented, to "Falk" and Victory where speech becomes corrosive, destructive gossip. Here he employs Derrida and Bakhtin convincingly to account for the particular modernist pressure Conrad places on orality as authentic discourse. Part I concludes with an examination of Arrow of Gold, a novel that Greaney finds characterized by different speech communities, neither of campongs nor ships' decks nor verandahs, but of drawing rooms in which "a certain distrust of the voice" is found, and writing rather than speech "is privileged as the most authentic resource of self-expression." Part II takes up the Marlow stories, all of which, Greaney contends, are "the products of an intricate confrontation between traditional...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 470-474
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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