Domaine de spécialité : Littérature Anglophone

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Titre : « Conrad’s Matter »

Direction : Françoise Kràl
Début : 2020

Résumé :
Joseph Conrad did not belong to an émigré community of Poles in Great Britain or France. His personal trajectory did not merge with any of the successive waves of exiles from Poland. Going to sea, becoming a British mariner, then a British writer was to a great extent a free and positive choice on his part. It was also an unheard-of trajectory on the British literary scene of the time. His choice to become a British writer came with the underlying desire to be endorsed by the literary critics but also by a popular readership.
The psychological aspect of Conrad’s protagonists went much deeper and shared more with Proustian protagonists than the typical English adventurer. And yet, Conrad’s endorsement of the English adventure novel is “natural” in more ways than one. Conrad intended to write for his British readers rather than about them, and one may wonder how well he knew them in his early writing career. His concern to bridge the gap with his English readership played a part in his use of a British man as a narrative avatar. Conrad came from what was considered in England an obscure literary nation, no longer in existence, whose literary heydays were with the Romantic movement, which had long waned down in England.
For Polish writers, such as Conrad’s very own father Apollo, writing in their own language was an existential matter under Russia's autocratic rule. The Polish poet was a bard for his people and his role extended to the political realm. Abandoning the martyr nation was a decision Conrad made in his youth and had to come to terms with later in his life. Writing in Polish was not an option for Conrad, but he also made the drastic decision not to teach his mother tongue to his children. Starting his writing career in 1895, Conrad did not tackle Poland in fiction until A Personal Record in 1911 and “Prince Roman” in 1915. It is mainly after 1915 that he chose to voice his opinion on the Polish question in political essays. "Amy Foster", written in 1901 allows us to glimpse into what we may otherwise call a blind spot in Conrad's fiction.
Conrad’s literary background was wide and deep. The blending of his many influences was so complete that it is quite impossible to recompose them into pure sources. Digressions in his work may be seen as sea yarn or "gawęda": they display the humane values of the "gawęda", the adventurous characteristics of a tale but the depth and inquisitive nature of his ponderings are altogether beyond both. Conrad’s literary ambition was to represent the experience of life with authenticity, and he went beyond the popular novel across many forms and genres. The intertexts and metafictional discourse in his works testify that he belonged to a pan-European literary community.
In the Conradian moment of chaos and doubt into a more secular twentieth century of violence, alienation and imperialism, Conrad staged the encounter of his protagonists with the Sublime in an exotic setting as a cathartic experience revealing a personalized truth. By resorting to symbols, Conrad gave this unique experience a more universal and timeless appeal.
He chose to inhabit the English language but imported a world of un-Britishness into it. French offerred Conrad another possibility to reveal or veil his meaning. He was to be followed in the nineteen twenties and thirties by many multilingual Modernists who experimented with language. Conrad’s abandonment of his mother tongue in fiction forced him to develop a new type of affect with language. In his work, we hear a polyphony of voices. Protagonists are often depicted in liminal hybrid zones in which several languages and cultures interact. To understand the exilic experience, one must take “the unsaid” into account. Dreams, slips of the tongue reveal the stranger within. In-between, within and out of the community at the same time, the exile is capable of distancing himself both from his host and his former country and offer a unique perspective. The voyage of the exile, from the receding shore to the new horizon, is mostly spent in-between, in an indeterminate space. The inherent instability of meaning in the text, its essential heteroglossia and the layers of languages woven in the embedded narratives offer a fascinating depth of meaning and attempt to attain a truthful representation of a complex world.

Activités de recherche et d'enseignement

  • Activités de recherche

2020 : Mémoire de Master 2, « Conrad et l'Imperial Romance »
  • Activités d'enseignement

Pas d'activités d'enseignement pour le moment.

Parcours universitaire

2019-2020 : Master 2 Etudes Anglophones

Mis à jour le 14 novembre 2022