(13) Neo-Romanticism: New Treatment of Romantic Concepts and Methods.
(J. Conrad, R. L. Stevenson, and R. Kipling).
T h e T w e n t i e t h C e n t u r y
[see "Background for Topics 12-27..."]
J o s e p h C o n r a d ( 1 8 5 7 – 1 9 2 4 )
L i f e :
- b. in Poland (then under Rus. rule), son of a Polish patriot suffering exile in Rus. for his Polish nationalist activities
- a merchant seaman: travelled the Pacific, esp. the East & West Indies, etc.
- met and befriended J. Galsworthy on a South Sea voyage
- a naturalised Br. subject > a sense of betrayal, guilt and dislocation in his work
- with the success of his 1st novel Almayer’s Folly (1895) settled in London as a writer
W o r k :
- started learning E when 21 x but: became a master of E prose
- pop. for the romantic descriptions of exotic eastern landscapes x but: underlying serious themes
(a) sea stories: employs the sea and the circumstances of life on shipboard or in remote settlements as a background for exploring moral ambiguities in human experience: tests the codes we live by in moments of crisis to reveal their inadequacy or our own
=> his sea-stories at least find some kind of resolution, though a singularly fragile one
(b) later more obviously political fiction
- as much a pessimist as Hardy x but: projects it in subtler ways
- conc.: the effects of Eur. imperialism in the Pacific, the East Indies, South Am., and Af.
- colonisers = uncomprehending, intolerant, and exploitative
- power = corrupting and open to abuse => colonialism both brutal and brutalising
The Nigger of the “Narcissus” (1897):
- the eponymous character = a dying black seaman, corrupts the morale of a ship’s crew by producing sympathy
- symbolically: the necessity and at the same time the dangers of human contact
An Outpost of Progress (1898):
- the eponymous ‘progress’ = an obvious misnomer
- a nwsp from ‘home’ brightly discusses ‘Our Colonial Expansion’ in terms of ‘the rights and duties of civilisation to the dark places of the earth’ x but: the ‘darkness’ corrupts both internally and externally
> further develops the idea in his Heart of Darkness (1899)
Heart of Darkness (1899):
< his own experience in a steamboat going up the Congo River in nightmarish circumstances
- imperialism begins as a variety of brutish idealism, redeemed by the idea only x but: proves to lack such an idea as the narrative develops
Lord Jim (1900):
- conc.: a gross failure of duty on the part of a romantic and idealistic young sailor
- the eponymous character = a successful colonial agent, earns himself the tile of Lord from his grateful subjects x but: marred by the lasting memory of the corruption of his predecessor
- an intermediate narrator, a series of different POV => suggest the complexity of experience and the difficulty of judging human actions
= a sea novel
= his masterpiece, a political novel
- set in an unstable South Am. rep. in a tottering social order
- conc.: the corrupting effects of politics and ‘material interests’ on personal relationships => corruption both imported and exportable
The Secret Agent (1906):
= a political novel, veers simultaneously twd farce and tragedy
- set in a murky, seedy, untidy London
- the eponymous character = Verlock, an agent provocateur in the employ of a ‘foreign’ (= almost certainly Rus.) embassy, required to blow up the Greenwich Meridian
< looks back to C. Dickens (esp. his policemen)
> the modern sense of alienation, disquiet, and dislocation; and the fragmented, reiterated phrases of the concl. anticipate the Modernists
Under Western Eyes (1911):
= a political novel of Dostoyevskian power [Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 – 81), author of Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868), The Brothers Karamazov (1880), & oth.]
- conc.: the dangerous instabilities of society under the Rus. autocracy
- the protagonist = Razumov (= ‘son of reason’), a Rus. student and government spy, gets involuntary involved with antigovernment violence in the tsarist Rus. and betrays a revolutionary fellow-student to the Tsar’s police
- consequentially becomes a double exile in Switzerland, pretends to be a revolutionary among revolutionaries, to be the opposite of what he is
- the narrator = an elderly E teacher of languages in Geneva, draws on his experience of R. and on his diary, observes all with foreign ‘western’ eyes, and only partially grasps R.’s pressing need for confession and expiation
The Secret Sharer (1912):
- set in the Gulf of Siam as felt by a young sea captain on his 1st command
- in a small hierarchical society of the ship an individual decision and responsibility take on the moral force of paramount virtue
- opening: the ‘great security of the sea as compared with the unrest of the land’ and the shipboard life present ‘no disquieting problems’ x but: becomes ironical as the narrative develops
- conc.: the difficulty of true communion, communion as forced unexpectedly on us, and the recognition of our opposite as our true self
- symbolically: the paradoxes of identity and sympathy
The Shadow-Line (1917)
R o b e r t L o u i s S t e v e n s o n ( 1 8 5 0 – 9 4 )
- singularly fascinated with horror x but: achieved greater variety and invention
- employed small-town settings and the Scots vernacular => a precise sense of Scott. place
= member of the ‘Kailyard School’ = rooted in the work of W. Scott, and also incl. J(ames) M(atthew) Barrie (1860 – 1937 [= a Scott. novelist and dramatist]), Ian Maclaren (1850 – 1907 [= the pseudonym of Rev. John Watson, a Scott. writer and divine]), and S(amuel) R(utherford) Crockett (1860 – 1914 [= a Scott. novelist])
M y s t e r y F i c t i o n :
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886):
= a mystery story
- written in the exile of the E seaside => stimulated his fascination with the widening gap btw the worlds of Jekyll and his alter ego Hyde
- examines the divided self and the possession of a successful London physician Dr Jekyll
- concl.: J.’s suicide = the only effective release from the predatory Hyde
H i s t o r i c a l F i c t i o n :
- set in Scot.
< W. Scott x but: lacks his urge to find a historical and fictional compromise justifying the idea of progressive evolution
Kidnapped (1886) and the sequel Catriona (1893):
- set in the 18th c. Scotland torn by Jacobite divisions
- conc.: deception, suspicion, injustice, and obligatory flight
- concl.: no sense of achieved serenity, no emphasis on historic justice or justification
The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter’s Tale (1889):
- set in the aftermath of ‘The Forty-five Jacobite Rising’
- narrated episodically by a family steward responding dually to 2 politically and emotionally divided brothers = symbolically: historic tensions within Scott. culture
A d v e n t u r e F i c t i o n :
- fascinated with travel, the dangerous, and the exotic
Treasure Island (1883): a famous boys’ story
The Beach at Falesá (1893) and The Ebb Tide (1894): South Sea adventure stories; criticises the effects of 18th c. colonialism = a new variation on piracy
R u d y a r d K i p l i n g ( 1 8 6 5 – 1 9 3 6 )
L i f e :
- b. in Bombay (Ind.), sent to En. for education, unhappy
< affected by the E schoolboy code of honour and duty, esp. when it involved loyalty to a group or team
- rejoined his parents in Ind. as a nwsp reporter / part-time writer
- after the success of his stories settled in En.
W o r k :
- conc.: Ind. = in the final decades of the 19th c. the most important colony of Br. empire:
(a) E people curious about the world of Ind.
(b) K. consid. the Br. imperial adventure in Ind. more romantic than that in Af.
- fascinated by the way of life of the Ind. and perceptive to the anomalies of the Br. Raj
- retained the detachment of a Eur. outsider x but: tried to see Ind. from inside and portray the people with understanding
- a world of masculine action x but: also alert to human weakness, vulnerability, and failure
- a master of the short story: new subjects, wonderful ear for dialect, economy of style, complex irony x but: as a rule not successful with long narratives (except for Kim )
- a commonsensical, almost proverbial, philos.
- a deliberately ‘plain’ style, seemingly flat and coarse story-telling x the stylistic refinements of W. Pater and O. Wilde, the complex allusiveness of H. James, & oth.
=> the 1st E writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Lit. (1907)
F i c t i o n :
Plain Tales from the Hills (1888):
= his 1st vol. of short stories
- conc.: the psychological and moral problems of the Anglo-Ind. and their relationship with the people they had colonised
Jungle Books (1894, 1895):
- in 2 vol.
< draws on his experience of the Ind. scene to create a world of jungle animals
= his only successful novel and a large-scale attempt at multi-focusing
- allows for many voices and conflicting traditions: the eponymous character and protagonist = Kim, the orphan son of an Ir. colour-sergeant, wanders both geographically and culturally, serves both a Tibetan Lama as his disciple and the Br. Secret Service as a spy
- treats the contemplative and relig. way of life of the Ind. with no less sympathy than the active and worldly way of life of the Victorian En.
- the Lama’s worldview: freedom lies in withdrawal = an end to his spiritual search
x but: K.’s questions about identity, race, relig., isolation loneliness, courage, etc. remain unsolved and his destiny ambiguous
“The Man Who Would Be King”:
= a clever and entertaining short story
- conc.: soldierly individualism
=> soldiers = pragmatic and stoical survivors coping both with the discipline of their regiment and the multiple confusions of Ind.
“Baa Baa Black Sheep”:
= a short story
- conc: the suffering of E children sent back ‘home’ for education, and the inability of adults to assimilate to native Ind.
=> both the merits and demerits of the colonial regime
P o e t r y :
< the traditional sources: family connections with the Pre-Raphaelites, incl. C. A. Swinburne and R. Browning
< the Protestant hymn
< the songs of the music hall
- introd. new subjects: the E working-class private soldier of the regular army (= termed ‘Tommy Atkins’) and the Ind. scene seen through his eyes
- often employed a racist POV => today found offensive: “The Ladies”
- often unjustly seen as a pop. apologist for Br. imperialism: “The White Man’s Burden” x but:
> “The Widow at Windsor”, lacks flag-waving and celebration of the triumph x presents a soldier bewildered by the events, having done his duty x but not seeing the course of the empire as a divine design to which he has been a contrib.
> “Boots”, presents the Af. campaigns (= the Boer wars) more as a matter of slog than of swashbuckling, and Af. more as a pain in the feet than a ‘burden’
- introd. the accent of the London cockney
- mastered the swinging verse rhythms, and a jingling, jingoistic verse
- many of his poems call to be set to music and gain immeasurable by being sung: “The Road to Mandalay”, “Gentlemen Rankers”, & oth.
Barrack-Room Ballads (1890, 1892): an immediate success
“Recessional”: the Queen’s Jubilee poem
Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.
Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.
Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.
Práger, Libor. Semináře: Britská literatura 2. ZS 2004/05.