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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Joseph Conrad in the New World Order

Terry Collits.


Starting from Slavoj Zizek's proposition (following Gadamer), that there is more truth in the later efficacy of a text, in the series of its subsequent readings, than in its supposedly original reading, the paper will assess Conrad a test case for retaining (or not) canonical writers in the English curriculum of the future. Rather than appeal to arguments for the need to preserve and transmit the cultural tradition etc. the aim of will be to test a hypothesis concerning the most efficacious terms for a political criticism and pedagogy in the present condition of world politics. That condition is taken as largely determined by the imperialism-postcolonialism trajectory that now appears as subject to massive transformation. The new (cultural) world order will be addressed mainly at the level of the pedagogical - of the (transatlantic) west, certainly, but with an eye to other, more peripheral, sites where English Literature maintains a presence (Australia, India).
As symptomatic of this as yet incomplete project, I will look at the intervention by Fredric Jameson in postcolonial literary debates in the 1980s, the single-handed invasion of the western academy by the Lacanian Slavoj Zizek in the 1990s, and the sweeping hypotheses of Michael Hardt and Antonio's Negri's Empire at the beginning of the new century. Conrad is taken as an older writer whose distinction was to be the first writer of fictions to intimate a world imperial system (Nostromo, 1904) and who then became one of the most controversial figures in debates that saw the establishment of postcolonial studies in the second half of the twentieth century. That said, it now remains to ask what more than mere respect for the past is involved by requiring students across the world to invest their labour in detailed study of the novels of this perplexing, but intriguing, writer

Presenters

Terry Collits  (Australia)
Head of Chisholm College
School of Communications, Arts and Critical Enquiry
La Trobe University

After teaching ancient and modern languages in secondary schools, studied English and History at Sydney University through the turbulent ‘60s. Has since taught courses and researched in Drama, Greek Tragedy, and Postcolonial Studies at Sydney, Melbourne and La Trobe Universities. Now completing a book entitled “Joseph Conrad and the Postcolonial World Order” currently under consideration by Routledge.

Keywords
  • Conrad
  • Postcolonialism
  • English Curriculum
  • New World Order
Person as Subject
  • Conrad, Joseph Jameson, Fredric Zizek, Slavoj Hardt, Michael Negri, Antonio



(30 min Conference Paper, English)