The Discerning Narrator: Conrad, Aristotle, and Modernity
Published: October 2022© 2023
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 158 Pages
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
158 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
Ebook - PDF
The Discerning Narrator sheds new light on Joseph Conrad’s controversial critique of modernity and modernization by reading his work through an Aristotelian lens. The book proposes that we need Aristotle – a key figure in Conrad’s education – to recognize the profound significance of Conrad’s artistic vision.
Offering Aristotelian analyses of Conrad’s letters, essays, and four works of fiction, Alexia Hannis illuminates the philosophical roots and literary implications of Conrad’s critique of modernity. Hannis turns to Aristotle’s ethical formulations to trace what she calls "the discerning narrator" in Conrad’s oeuvre: a compassionate yet sceptical guide to appraising character and conduct. The book engages with past and current Conrad scholarship while drawing from Aristotle’s Poetics, Politics, and Nicomachean Ethics, as well as classical scholars to offer original philosophical analyses of major and understudied Conrad’s works.
Drawing on Aristotle, Hannis provides a fresh context for making sense of Conrad’s self-differentiation from modernity. As a result, The Discerning Narrator provides an affirmation of literature’s invitation to wonder about the possibilities inherent in human nature, including the potential for painful depravity, heroic excellence, and ordinary human happiness.
Introduction: The Deeper Significance of Sailing Ships
1. Conrad’s Vision of Things
2. An Outcast of the Islands: Tragedy, Pathos, and Conrad’s Narrative Appeal
3. Seeing Jim’s Virtues in Lord Jim: A Tale
4. The Discerning Narrator in Falk: A Reminiscence
5. Marlow’s Practical Wisdom: Chance: A Tale in Two Parts
"Clearly conceptualized and elegantly written, this slim but important volume offers fresh new readings of four of Joseph Conrad’s works. Hannis is at the forefront of a new generation of scholars who view Conrad beyond the lens of postcolonial studies and as part of an older, wider human conversation with classical roots."Debra Romanick Baldwin, Associate Professor of English, University of Dallas
"Through its extended reading of a range of Joseph Conrad’s work, The Discerning Narrator demonstrates the relevance of Aristotle’s philosophy for Conrad’s assessment of modernity. The selection of texts presents an intriguing constellation of Conrad’s works and offers a brilliant and original re-assessment of the main contours of Conrad’s oeuvre."Christopher GoGwilt, Professor of English, Fordham University