Reading Conrad’s Lord Jim: Reading Texts, Reading Lives

  • Daniel R. Schwarz


I shall argue that the experience of reading Lord Jim enacts a dialogue between the major ideologies of reading on the current critical mindscape — deconstruction and what I call humanistic formalism — and that Lord Jim privileges the reading of humanistic formalism, which urges an absolute judgement on Jim’s behaviour and an organic and coherent text, over the deconstructive reading which raises questions about the possibility of formal unity, explanations of behaviour, and standards of judgement. Ultimately, Lord Jim affirms the possibility of significance and values, and refuses to endorse the relativity of Marlow or the solipsism of Stein.


Ethical Leader Humanistic Formalism Absolute Judgement Absolute Standard Soft Spot 
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  1. 1.
    J. Hillis Miller, Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982) pp. 39–40.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    G. Jean-Aubry, Joseph Conrad: Life and Letters 2 vols (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1927) I. 184.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Basic Books, 1979).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Geoffrey Hartman, ‘The Culture of Criticism’, PMLA, 99:3 (May 1984) p. 386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Daniel R. Schwarz 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel R. Schwarz
    • 1
  1. 1.Cornell UniversityUSA

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