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Spatial Structures in Conrad’s Universe : The Tension between Opening and Closing as a Literary Device

Lindskog, Claes LU (2008)
Abstract
Many attempts have been made to catch the essence of Joseph Conrad’s work by examining the contents of his ideas. This thesis argues instead that the important factor is the preferred spatial structures of his world-views and the interplay between them. Above all, Conrad’s work can be seen as a battle-ground between closing and opening structures. The former have a claustrophobic effect on the contemplating mind but are generally described by Conrad as having a greater truth-value. The latter give a sense of freedom and hope, but are also experienced as illusory and transient.

In this context one should distinguish between an idea and the various attitudes that are taken towards it. An epistemological attitude, such as belief,... (More)
Many attempts have been made to catch the essence of Joseph Conrad’s work by examining the contents of his ideas. This thesis argues instead that the important factor is the preferred spatial structures of his world-views and the interplay between them. Above all, Conrad’s work can be seen as a battle-ground between closing and opening structures. The former have a claustrophobic effect on the contemplating mind but are generally described by Conrad as having a greater truth-value. The latter give a sense of freedom and hope, but are also experienced as illusory and transient.

In this context one should distinguish between an idea and the various attitudes that are taken towards it. An epistemological attitude, such as belief, concerns the truth value of an idea, while an axiological attitude is concerned with the value of an idea to a mind. This thesis contends that while Conrad’s basic ideas changed little during his writing career, the attitudes towards them vary greatly, partly in accordance with the literary needs of the text at hand.

Chapter 1 presents a specific plot that recurs in many of Conrad’s works, including Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim. This plot describes a progression from a state of illusion to a new, claustrophobic, world-view that is valorised epistemologically as truth, but is also regarded as detrimental for an individual’s mental health. It is not possible to live with the new view and the individual is consequently forced to seek either a “saving dullness” or a new set of illusions. In chapter 2, the scanty descriptions of the horrifying new world-view are collated with Conrad’s descriptions of his own ideas in letters contemporary with the analysed texts. The famous Stein chapter in Lord Jim is singled out for special analysis in chapter 3, with specific focus on the opening techniques by which the closing of the world is challenged. For chapter 4 the focus shifts to an individual’s experience of a hopelessly claustrophobic life-situation and how the attempts to open this forms an important part of the plot in Under Western Eyes. In the last chapter, the opening possibilities of writing are considered, especially as regards the genre of romance which Conrad uses already in Lord Jim but especially towards the end of his career. By describing the necessity of romance, Conrad’s achieve the effect that they can be read as both romance and anti-romance, depending on the preferences of the reader. (Less)
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author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor Bell, Michael, University of Warwick
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Cognitive Poetics, Nihilism, Romanticism, Spatial Structures, Joseph Conrad
pages
201 pages
publisher
Centre for Languages and Literature, Lund University
defense location
Hörsalen, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund
defense date
2008-05-24 10:15
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
24d34f77-ec03-4550-87ab-b277136053c2 (old id 1145472)
date added to LUP
2008-05-07 16:25:58
date last changed
2016-09-19 08:45:07
@misc{24d34f77-ec03-4550-87ab-b277136053c2,
  abstract     = {Many attempts have been made to catch the essence of Joseph Conrad’s work by examining the contents of his ideas. This thesis argues instead that the important factor is the preferred spatial structures of his world-views and the interplay between them. Above all, Conrad’s work can be seen as a battle-ground between closing and opening structures. The former have a claustrophobic effect on the contemplating mind but are generally described by Conrad as having a greater truth-value. The latter give a sense of freedom and hope, but are also experienced as illusory and transient. <br/><br>
In this context one should distinguish between an idea and the various attitudes that are taken towards it. An epistemological attitude, such as belief, concerns the truth value of an idea, while an axiological attitude is concerned with the value of an idea to a mind. This thesis contends that while Conrad’s basic ideas changed little during his writing career, the attitudes towards them vary greatly, partly in accordance with the literary needs of the text at hand.<br/><br>
Chapter 1 presents a specific plot that recurs in many of Conrad’s works, including Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim. This plot describes a progression from a state of illusion to a new, claustrophobic, world-view that is valorised epistemologically as truth, but is also regarded as detrimental for an individual’s mental health. It is not possible to live with the new view and the individual is consequently forced to seek either a “saving dullness” or a new set of illusions. In chapter 2, the scanty descriptions of the horrifying new world-view are collated with Conrad’s descriptions of his own ideas in letters contemporary with the analysed texts. The famous Stein chapter in Lord Jim is singled out for special analysis in chapter 3, with specific focus on the opening techniques by which the closing of the world is challenged. For chapter 4 the focus shifts to an individual’s experience of a hopelessly claustrophobic life-situation and how the attempts to open this forms an important part of the plot in Under Western Eyes. In the last chapter, the opening possibilities of writing are considered, especially as regards the genre of romance which Conrad uses already in Lord Jim but especially towards the end of his career. By describing the necessity of romance, Conrad’s achieve the effect that they can be read as both romance and anti-romance, depending on the preferences of the reader.},
  author       = {Lindskog, Claes},
  keyword      = {Cognitive Poetics,Nihilism,Romanticism,Spatial Structures,Joseph Conrad},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {201},
  publisher    = {ARRAY(0x791c8b8)},
  title        = {Spatial Structures in Conrad’s Universe : The Tension between Opening and Closing as a Literary Device},
  year         = {2008},
}