Abstract

Joseph Conrad is usually seen as politically conservative or indifferent. Reading his late novel, Under Western Eyes, as an illustration of the relationship between ethics and politics complicates this assessment. Conrad establishes Russia as an abyssal space of otherness in his 1905 essay, “Autocracy and War.” Under Western Eyes (1911) stages the clash between Russia’s non-viable political extremes (autocracy and revolution) and a Levinasian ethics of alterity. The end of the novel implies that, in the wake of complete political alienation, a new future for the nation can be imagined, one that acknowledges the self’s responsibility for the other. Using Levinas’s rethinking of ethics to reinterpret Conrad’s ambivalent cynicism opens up new ways of understanding the politics of modernist literature.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 1-19
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-26
Open Access
No
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