Identity, the Self and the Levinasian Other in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim

Agata Kowol


Identity, the Self and the Levinasian Other in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim

The aim of the paper is to analyse the concepts of identity and the self in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim in relation to the thought of Emanuel Levinas. In the novel, comprehension of the other appears elusive while the search for a fixed standard of conduct, the need of which seems so burning, is often frustrated. Moreover, the external world seems malevolent, while self-knowledge is virtually unattainable. It could be claimed that only thanks to a confrontation with the Other, be it another man, the universe, or one’s own self, can man establish a sense of identity. Especially the confrontation and relation with another man, the Other who, in Levinasian terms, is never fully knowable, but for whom one is primordially responsible, helps render existence meaningful and one’s own nature more acceptable. This relation is charged with important ethical resonance, since the marine ethos proves misleading when deprived of any relation to the Other.

Słowa kluczowe: Lord Jim, identity, the Other, the self, Levinas

Conrad J., Lord Jim, New York and London 1996.

Berthoud J., Joseph Conrad. The Major Phase, Cambridge 1978.

Levinas E., Otherwise than Being, or, Beyond Essence, trans. A. Lingis, Pittsburgh 1998.

Levinas E., Time and the Other [in:] The Levinas Reader, ed. S. Hand, Oxford 1989.

Levinas E., Totality and Infinity [in:] Totality and Infinity. An Essay on Exteriority, trans. A. Lingis,  Pittsburgh 1969.

Stape J.H., “Lord Jim”. The Cambridge Companion to Joseph Conrad, ed. J.H. Stape, Cambridge 1996.

Tanner T., Conrad: Lord Jim, London 1963.

Watt I., Conrad in the Nineteenth Century, London 1980.

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