Joseph Conrad and the Anthropological Dilemma: "bewildered Traveller"
Clarendon Press, 1995 - 248 pages
This is the first detailed analysis of Conrad's early works in relation to nineteenth-century anthropology, Victorian travel writing, and contemporary anthropological theory. Conrad's early fiction originated as a response to his travels in so-called primitive cultures: Malaysia, Borneo, and the Congo. As a sensitive observer of other peoples and a notable emigre, he was profoundly aware of the psychological impact of travel, and much of his early fiction portrays both literal and figurative voyages of Europeans into other cultures. By situating Conrad's work in relation to other writings on 'primitive' peoples, John Griffith shows how his fiction draws on prominent anthropological and biological theories regarding the degenerative potential of contacts between European and other cultures. At the same time, however, Conrad's work reflected an anthropological dilemma: he constantly posed the question of how to bridge conceptual and cultural gaps between various peoples. As John Griffith demonstrates, this was a dilemma which coincided with a larger Victorian debate regarding the progression or retrogression of European civilization.
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