Joseph Conrad and Material Culture
Joseph Conrad and Material Culture offers a fresh approach to Conrad's work, especially his African fictions, by grounding its discussion in the importance of material culture and its role in shaping the literary art form in modernity. Opening with the description of a uniquely carved African tusk as both a work of art and an object of material culture, Merry M. Pawlowski traces the scenes of African life displayed on that tusk to establish the major themes of her study of selected works of Conrad's fiction and nonfiction. These themes include the presence of transculturation in colonial Africa, the transformation of the African fetish into the commodity fetish, the exploitation of the African continent through mapping, exploration, and trade, and the rise of the transcendent commodity. Employing cartographic, materialist, psychoanalytic, and postcolonial theories as frameworks, Pawlowski offers new insights using details, liminal presences, in Conrad's texts enhanced by key illustrations to expand those details as revelatory of the broader material culture invoked by the text. The brief mention of a Huntley and Palmers biscuit tin, the single reference to the Great Exhibition of 1851, the intriguing hint of a vile scramble for loot, are a few examples of tantalizing textual presences. Pawlowski explores the presence of material culture through teasing out gaps, silences, and hints deployed in Conrad's works. Revealing the rich context on which Conrad drew as he wrote, this book offers an opportunity for the reader to enter Conrad's world through envisioning the defamiliarizing spaces from which he drew inspiration for his art. This book is volume 31 of the series Conrad: Eastern and Western Perspectives, edited by Wieslaw Krajka.
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