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  • Introduction
  • Katherine Isobel Baxter (bio) and Yael Levin (bio)

Conrad scholarship is forever widening its reach. Over the years scholars have turned their attention to questions of biography, composition, and publishing history, geography, politics, identity, sexuality, language, translation, adaptation, medicine, music, food, finance, and more. Among this cornucopia of scholarship certain key issues emerge, notably identity, international and transnational concerns, and the life of the man himself. It is striking that these themes are also those which shape the key publications of one of the field's leading scholars, Robert Hampson. From Joseph Conrad: Betrayal and Identity (1992), through Cross-Cultural Encounters in Joseph Conrad's Malay Fiction (2000) to Conrad's Secrets (2012), Hampson's critical work anticipates and shapes these issues in Conrad scholarship.

On February 17, 2018, a symposium was held at Senate House in London to celebrate Hampson's work on the occasion of his retirement from Royal Holloway. The symposium brought together colleagues, collaborators, and former doctoral students who worked with Hampson over the years. The articles collected here developed out of that event. Our broad theme was "Space and Geography in Conrad's Fiction" and, in keeping with the variety of approaches noted above, contributors brought to the theme a striking array of perspectives.

This critical range notwithstanding, the articles collected here all demonstrate the huge impact of what has commonly come to be designated the "spatial" turn on how we adopt and adapt our approaches to Conrad. This critical turn in literary studies can be traced back to the work of poststructuralists, social theorists, and geographers of the 1970's. Fredric Jameson's Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991) follows the shift heralded by such thinkers as Michel Foucault, Henri Lefebvre, and David Harvey in articulating the need to attend to this particular critical focus. For Jameson, the transition should be understood as a historical marker of critical change. He [End Page 1] writes: "Our psychic experience, our cultural languages, are today dominated by categories of space rather than by categories of time, as in the preceding period of high modernism" (16). Space emerges as the dominant historical, cultural, and literary trope, superseding time. Moreover, in Jameson's reading, this transition traces a fault line between modernism and postmodernism.

The stakes of this critical shift are helpfully unpacked in Robert T. Tally, Jr.'s introduction to The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space:

Whereas it had once seemed that the nineteenth century had been dominated by a discourse of time, history, and teleological development and a modernist aesthetic of the early twentieth century enshrined the temporal dimension, especially with respect to individual psychology, and—apart from interest in mere setting, regionalism, or local color, perhaps—matters of geography, topography, or spatiality played a subordinate role in critical scholarship and teaching. In the great works of realism and modernism, at least in the most influential scholarship devoted to them, time maintained its supremacy, with both history and temporality dominating the discourse, while geography and a sense of place were in many cases relegated to secondary status. Whereas time represented narrative development and change, space was often viewed as mere background or an empty container in which the unfolding of events over some durée could take place. In recent literary and cultural studies, notably with the advent of postmodernism and postcolonial theory, but also in other interdisciplinary approaches to literature, space has reemerged as a principal concern.


The significant reconceptualizations of space emerging in the latter half of the twentieth century offer methods to read against the time-centered modernist ethos. They stake out a new critical engagement with a new literary and cultural aesthetic.

More recently, scholarly efforts to widen the scope of traditional modernist studies helpfully intervene in what has come to be seen as an artificial epistemic divide between time-bound modernism and space-bound postmodernism. Rather than follow the rule of different methodologies for different literary moments, such studies draw from the insights of current writing on space in order to reconsider canonical modernist texts. Andrew Thacker's Moving through Modernity: Space and Geography in Modernism proceeds from the premise that "Jameson's distinction between...


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