In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

53 then twenty-three. One would not need to distort the evidence as Prof. Rutenberg does to suggest that the chronology "implies an I89O date", rather than simply one before March 15, I89I. 13 W. B. Yeats, Autobiographies (Lond: Macmillan, 1955), p. 301. REVIEW: IMAGE-HUNTING Wilfred S. Dowden. Joseph Conrad: The Imaged Style. Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt UP, 1970. $6.50. This is a most disappointing book. Its most obvious fault is its failure to fulfill the promise of the title. Dowden found what might have been an important clue to Conrad's use of imagery in a preface the novelist wrote to The Red Badge of Courage in 1923. Conrad praised Stephen Crane's "'vivid impressionistic description of action on that woodland battlefield, and the imaged style of the analysis of the emotions . . . [of Henry's] inward moral struggle."1 To do justice to the phrase "the Imaged style" would, it seems to me, have required an analysis that revealed the interplay of style and imagery, one that showed how aspects of style affected the significance of Conrad's images. But Dowden shows himself a relentless image-hunter who cares very little about the rhetorical or syntactical aspects of style. It is disconcerting to see Dowden establish a distinction between two varieties of imagery, and then obliterate that distinction without explanation. In the Introduction the author differentiates between impressionism, the use of "a superabundance of images in order to evoke desired immediate responses from the reader," and imagery "conjoined t o other aspects of the work in a cohesive whole" (p. 6). This rather elementary distinction loses its effectiveness in Dowden's discussion of Conrad's admiration for Crane. Although the paragraph begins "indeed, much of Crane's impressionistic method seemed to please Conrad" (p. 7), Dowden proceeds without qualification to discuss Conrad's use of "controlling images," such as silver in Nostromo and mist or cloudiness in Lord JIm. Are we to understand, then, that controlling images are examples of what Dowden has called "impressionism"? Are not controlling images, on the contrary, precisely those which are "conjoined to other aspects of the whole"? This curiously contra tory paragraph leaves these questions unanswered. Dowden's discussions of Conrad's novels are generally clear and sensible, but certain aspects of his approach seriously hinder their usefulness. I find it annoying that the analyses of Imagery are so often based on plot. His approach to Nostromo is typical» 54 "In Part II, Nostromo is more frequently on the scene but is less often associated with silver as an ornament of dress .... From this point on in Part II, Nostromo is presented in darkness, and the familiar silver image associated with him heretofore gradually fades from view" (pp. 96-97). At their worst, his analyses amount to the most obvious kind of plot summary interspersed with identification and commentary on key images. A more serious flaw is Dowden's decision to analyze Conrad's fiction largely without using the work of earlier critics. His discussion of, say, "Heart of Darkness" or Lord Jim might mislead an undergraduate to think that few of Conrad * s earlier critics had discussed style or imagery, or that Dowden and his predecessors were in near-perfect agreement. My objection is that Dowden's discussions lack the tension and, more Important, the authority that come from giving the progenitors of our insights their due regards. Another annoying flaw in his analyses is his frequent use of a highly subjective, figurative style. Dowden writes of "Heart of Darkness" that "the sun, too, is a symbol of the obscurity and ambiguity in which Marlow finds himself. It burns without comforting , as the shade of the forest darkens the world without giving any real relief from the ferocity of the sun" (p. 78). Who says? Conrad or Dowden? The latter, apparently, but without noticing either the grotesqueness of his pathetic fallacy - he makes the earth a being who needs "comforting," and who finds that the forest 's shade only "darkens . . . without giving any real relief" or the deplorable blurring that results when a critic uses a novelist 's images to describe how they function. Later in the same paragraph Dowden solemnly...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 53-54
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.