How Much Conrad in Conrad Criticism?: Conrad’s Artistry, Ideological Mediatization and Identity: A Commemorative Address on the 160th Anniversary of the Writer’s Birth

Grażyna Maria Teresa Branny


The eponymous question of the present address as well as its main premise concern the issue of reading Conrad as opposed to the issue of Conrad’s readings. Although the writer insisted on the priority of artistic expression in his oeuvres over their thematic content, he tends to be analyzed with a view to precedence of content over form. Moreover, his application in his less known short fiction of the then novel modernist device of denegation usually ascribed to Faulkner, is hardly given its due in criticism. What distorts Conrad is, likewise, ideological mediatization of his fiction and biography. And, last but not least, comes insufficient appreciation among Western Conradians of the significance for his writings of his Polish background, and especially his borderland szlachta heritage, where also Polish criticism has been at fault. As emphasized, in comparison with Conrad’s Englishness, which comes down to the added value of his home, family, friends, and career in England as well as the adopted language, his Polishness is about l’âme: the patriotic spirit of Conrad’s ancestry, traumatic childhood experience, Polish upbringing and education, sensibilities and deeply felt loyalties deriving from his formative years in Poland. Therefore, one of the premises put forward in the present address is that perhaps Conrad should be referred to as an English writer with his Polish identity constantly inscribed and reinscribed into the content and form of his oeuvres, rather than simply an English writer of Polish descent as he is now. The three eponymous aspects are thus hardly to be ignored in Conrad studies, even if a significant part of Conrad criticism to date has done precisely that. 

Słowa kluczowe: Joseph Conrad, artistry, ideological mediatization, borderland heritage, Polish identity

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