Joseph Conrad and the Narration of Silence

John Peters

Hardback (Forthcoming)

Considers how Joseph Conrad’s works engage with silence

  • Considers the speech of Conrad’s narrators in light of their silence, contending that Conrad’s narrators narrate both through sound and silence
  • Investigates both what is unsayable and what is unsaid, and their relationship to both literal and metaphorical instances of silence in Conrad’s works
  • Addresses the effect of silence on the acquisition of knowledge
  • Argues for the relationship of silence to the transformative journeys Conrad’s characters so often experience
  • Reconsiders how Conrad employs silence in his works

Joseph Conrad and the Narration of Silence investigates how Conrad’s narrators speak without speaking, focusing first on what is unsayable and then on what is unsaid. Silences (both literal and metaphorical) occur throughout Conrad’s writings, and all connect in a meaningful manner to the speech of Conrad’s narrators. Readers have frequently commended Conrad’s distinct narrative style. These commentaries on narrative have made many valuable contributions. However, this book considers what happens when Conrad’s narrators do not narrate – when they are instead silent. In these gaps between what is said and what is unsaid, meaning may emerge. In short, the absence of speaking brings about meaningful moments of narrative memory when one discovers what cannot be contained within the narrator’s narrative alone: An incremental progression toward questions concerning the nature of knowledge, the nature of human existence, and the nature of the universe.


Introduction: Silences

Part I: Silence and the Unsayable

1. Silence and Speech

2. Silence and Experience

3. Silence and Consciousness

Part II: Silence and the Unsaid

4. Silence and Absence

5. Silence and Embodiment

6. Silence and Disembodiment

7. Faux-Frame Forms

8. Unsilent Narratives

Conclusion: Silences Redux

Coda: Coercive Silence
Works Cited

John Peters is a University Distinguished Research Professor at the University of North Texas, US. He is a past President of the Joseph Conrad Society of America and current Editor of Conradiana. Among his books are Joseph Conrad’s Critical Reception, The Cambridge Introduction to Joseph Conrad, Conrad and Impressionism, and the Norton critical edition of Conrad’s The Secret Sharer and Other Stories. His articles have appeared in such journals as Philosophy and Literature, College Literature, Studies in the Novel, Studies in Short Fiction, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Victorian Review and English Language Notes. He has also translated into English the Japanese poet Takamura Kōtarō’s book The Chieko Poems (2007).

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