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THE SPACE OF THE UNTOLD: CONRAD'S ALLUSIVENESS Robert Rawdon Wilson University ofAlberta I Fictional space, unlike fictional time, constitutes an elusive area for inquiry.1 There is little agreement over the relevant concepts and even less over the appropriate methods of investigation. Gabriel Zoran expresses the difficulty inherent in writing about fictional space when he observes that research on the topic has been "quite diffuse, and there are few assumptions in general that have become generally accepted" (310). There exists a rather loose vocabulary (scarcely a technical lexicon) containing words such as distance, volume, co-existence, place, order, form and shape, but there are no normally accepted propositions concerning fictional space, not even that it is a genuine category. It is true that a great deal has been written recently about fictional worldhood (Maitre, Pavel), but, as I shall argue in this essay, space and world are distinct concepts. Fictional worlds, as Thomas Pavel's magisterial Fictional Worlds demonstrates, depend upon many variables, such as values, belief-systems, decisions and courses of action, among which spatiality (inverting the case for the extra-textual world) may be either stunted or deformed. Space is only an element in the constitution of fictional worlds, but when it is developed, as it is in Conrad's fiction, it leads directly to the distinctive features of the world itself. In this essay I shall argue that Conrad's fiction is often characterized by the creation of worlds that are pervasively dependent upon explicit spatial features. Space in Conrad's fiction builds upon two sets of semiotic This paper presents the first two parts of an extended essay on Conrad. The third and Final part, on spatiality in The Nigger of Tlte "Narcissus" and Flaubert's Salammbô, will appear in the next issue. Victorian Review 16.1 (Summer 1990). Robert Rawdon Wilson23 directions: 1) there are a vast number of precise indications of placement and interrelationship within designated boundaries; 2) within these boundaries, a large, complex chamber of voices and their echoes exists in which the voices penetrate from outside the boundaries, bringing with them, often in fragmentary form, narratives that have been told within, or at least belong to, some distinctively other space. The second set of directions in Conrad's fiction advises readers to listen for the echoes of stories that have been told, or might have been told, elsewhere and elsewhen. Thus in reading Conrad, one commonly hears the loud confluences of intertextuality or, in Roland Barthes's phrase, "stereographic space" (15, 21).2 The opening paragraphs of "Heart of Darkness" are paradigmatic. From the deck of the Nellie, the sea-reach of the Thames is seen "in the august light of abiding memories." The tidal current itself seems "crowded with memories of men and ships it has borne to the rest of home or to the battles of the sea." The unnamed narrator's memories bear upon him the figures of Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Franklin and all the many other hunters of gold and pursuers of fame who had "floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth" (47). When Marlow speaks, the focus shifts. He remembers the seamen who had sailed up, not down, the Thames; the seamen who had made the country upriver ("also") one of "the dark places of the earth" (48). He remembers Roman seamen and imagines one of them, a captain of trireme in the Mediterranean who dreams of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna, receiving his orders to the invasion fleet at "the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina." He would have done his duty, Marlow supposes, and faced the English darkness (49-50). Marlow's narratives, which are said to bring out meaning "as a glow brings out a haze," characteristically comprise other narratives. Kurtz, after all, is a story, the matrix of a possible narrative ("Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything?" [82]), and a voice. He presented himself, Marlow remarks, "as a voice" (113). As a voice...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 22-47
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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