An innovative account of Joseph Conrad's engagement with nineteenth-century thought.
Joseph Conrad's novels are recognized as great works of fiction, but they should also be counted as great works of criticism. A voracious reader throughout his life, Conrad wrote novels that question and transform the ideas he encountered in non-fiction, novels, and scientific and philosophic works.
Under Conrad's Eyes looks at Conrad's revaluations of some of his important nineteenth-century predecessors - Carlyle, Darwin, Dickens, George Eliot, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche. Detailed readings of works from Heart of Darkness to Victory explore Conrad's language and style, focusing on questions regarding the will to know and the avoidance of knowledge, the potential harmfulness of sympathy, and the competing instincts for self-preservation and self-destruction. Comparative analyses show how Conrad transforms aspects of Bleak House into The Secret Agent and Middlemarch into Nostromo. Especially compelling are explorations of Conrad's ambivalence towards Carlyle's faith in work and hero-worship as rejuvenators of English culture and his views on Nietzsche's assault on Christianity.
This important new study of a novelist of profound contemporary relevance demonstrates how Conrad exemplifies the artist as critic while challenging both the categories we impose on texts and the boundaries we erect between literary periods.