The Failure of Textuality (Victory)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan's book is an ambitious attempt to locate Conrad's work, his temperament and his beliefs in terms of a distinction between modern and pre-modern views of the universe. It argues that Conrad's temperamental scepticism drew him towards a philosophical stance characteristic of modernity, and presaged by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. According to this stance, both truth and morality are merely fragile human constructions, reality is chaotic and meaningless, and art is a source of sustaining illusions or lies. On the other hand, Conrad's ideology or his ethical beliefs led him to reject such scepticism and relativism in favour of a pre-modern outlook which Erdinast-Vulcan identifies as poetic, mythological and religious. She traces Conrad's development as a writer in terms of this tension, arguing that Lord Jim, The Rescue and Nostromo try to escape from scepticism by regressing into 'the heroic-mythical frame of reference' (ErdinastVulcan, p. 5), that Heart of Darkness, Under Western Eyes and The Shadow-Line chart unsuccessful quests for 'a metaphysical essence or a transcendental authority' (Erdinast-Vulcan p. 5) and, in the chapter excerpted here, that Conrad's late novels, Chance, Victory and The Arrow of Gold, embrace the view of the world as only a text or fiction, lacking any ultimate truth. Erdinast-Vulcan relates this developmental scheme to questions of genre (in the case of the late novels, the genre of romance) and finds anticipations of poststructuralist theory in the scepticism of the later Conrad. Her own ideological standpoint is reflected in her linking of radical scepticism to artistic failure, so that she not only identifies a strong strain of conservative resistance to modernity in Conrad, but implicitly identifies herself with this aspect of his work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJoseph Conrad
EditorsAndrew Michael Roberts
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781315843285
ISBN (Print)9780582245983, 9781138836532
StatePublished - 1998


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