In this essay Michael Fried reads Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent in the light of an understanding of literary impressionism developed by him in earlier writings--"Stephen Crane's Upturned Faces" in Realism, Writing, Disfiguration: On Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane (University of Chicago Press, 1987) and "Almayer's Face: On 'Impressionism' in Conrad, Crane, and Norris" (Critical Inquiry, 1990). Briefly, Fried sees literary impressionism as arising out of (also as thematizing in numerous ways) the writer's encounter with the blank page and the tools of writing. In Conrad's case, this leads to a problematic of what Fried calls "erasure," the constant return to a primordial blankness, which in The Secret Agent is further inflected by a commitment to an "ironic" approach to his topic as well as to a materialist epistemology.


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pp. 1039-1071
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