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240 CONRAD CRITICISM TODAY: AN EVALUATION OF RECENT CONRAD SCHOLARSHIP By Jan Verleun and Jetty de Vries (University of Groningen, Netherlands) In this survey we will attempt to present an overview of the Conrad scene in the early eighties with the intention of taking stock of the situation that has developed some sixty years after Conrad's death. Bruce Teets in his brief review of the UMI publications {ELT, 29:1) partly covered the same ground and it may therefore be interesting to compare his notes with our own on Davidson's Conrad's Endings: A Study of the Five Major Novels, Hubbard's Theories of Action in Conrad, Jones's Conrad's Heroism: A Paradise Lost, Rieselbach's Conrad' s Rebels: The Psychology of Revolution in the Novels from "Nostromo" to "Victory" and Simons's The Ludic Imagination: A Reading of Joseph Conrad. The three novels here discussed but not considered by Teets are Pettersson's Consciousness and Time: A Study in the Philosophy and Narrative Technique of Joseph Conrad, Hunter's Joseph Conrad and the Ethics of Darwinism and Conrad: The Later Fiction, the second and concluding volume of Schwarz's study of Conrad's oeuvre. In organizing our material, we have placed the UMI's between Pettersson's and Hunter's books on the one side and Schwarz's on the other. Pettersson's critique has been selected to head the list firstly because it puts Conrad in the widest perspective, discussing both his place in the philosophical ambience of his day and the vast majority of his works, secondly because his view of Conrad very largely reflects our own, so that the reader may know from the start where we stand in the spectrum of Conrad criticism. Schwarz has been placed last for two reasons as well. One, in examining Conrad's last phase, Schwarz provides in his conclusion a fine retrospect on Conrad's achievement. Second, his judgments show an affinity with ours, offering an admirable starting-point for our final comment. Hunter has been chosen to follow Pettersson because he, too, is a critic using the intellectual context in which Conrad wrote, as the title of his critique will show. The same reason has induced us to place Simons, the first of the UMI writers, third. The reader, then, will initially encounter a block of contextual critics and thus be able to weigh the merits of Pettersson's attempt to put Conrad in the general intellectual climate of his time against Jhose of Hunter's anthropological speculations and of Simons's comparisons between Conrad's thought and that of thinkers like Freud and Nietzsche. When placing Pettersson, Hunter and Simons in this order we also acted on the notion that this listing should be done with a narrowing focus on Conrad. Thus Pettersson, whose scope is widest, is followed by Hunter, whose scope, though still considerable, is less wide, and we end with Simons, whose scope is narrower still. For the four UMI writers remaining, all of them basically non-contextual critics, we have adopted a kind of sand-glass model. Since Davidson and Rieselbach cover more of Conrad than Hubbard and Jones, we have placed the latter between them. Rieselbach's work is discussed at the end of the UMI 241 Ereductions because Schwarz, who ends our list, with a small overlap at the eginning of his examination, takes over where she leaves off. From our evaluations it will appear that we have marked preferences. We find the works of Pettersson, Simons, Jones and Schwarz more rewarding than those by Hunter, Davidson, Hubbard and Rieselbach. One conclusion that may be drawn from this is that there is no relation in our judgment between the amount of Conrad a writer takes in and the value of his work. Pettersson and Schwarz, whose books we admire, take in very much of Conrad, but we equally appreciate the studies of Simons and Jones, who have concentrated on a much smaller area. In this respect, we think, our investigation once more points to the obvious truth that insight is independent of scope. Other, more important findings are that if any conclusions can be drawn at all about...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 241-275
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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