Conrad, capital and globalisation

Niland, Richard; Harrison, Becky and Raczynska, Magda, eds. (2017) Conrad, capital and globalisation. In: Conradology. Comma Press, Manchester, pp. 155-166. ISBN 9781910974339

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Born into a nineteenth-century Polish culture that had experienced political dismemberment through the designs of the Prussian, Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, Joseph Conrad’s subsequent life and career saw him carry an awareness of this formative encounter with empire beyond the horizons of Europe to the world at large. Despite the major cultural and geographical shifts of Conrad’s life and work, in his posthumously published Last Essays (1926) he explained that his writing ‘had a consistent unity of outlook.’1 This Conradian unity has frequently been found in his treatment of the power and limits of empire, but his engagement in life and art with the interrelated peoples, places and forces of modernity in a global context also sees Conrad’s writing acquire a further unity through its scrutiny of both newly-emerging and embattled residual tendencies in a globalising world. If the idea of empire is famously elusive for Marlow in Heart of Darkness, what, then, is the nature of the global in Conrad’s writing and how does it shape his estimation of history and modernity?