'Ice or flame' : a thematic study of the fiction of Joseph Conrad

LaBossiere, Camille R. (1976) 'Ice or flame' : a thematic study of the fiction of Joseph Conrad. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Conrad abandons as means of ‘seeing’ truth traditional formal logic and practical reason, idols worthipped in nineteenth-century positivist thought; and, like Calderon, he adopts a dream-logic of contradictions akin to Nicholas of Cusa's principle of the coincidentia oppositorum. Conrad, like a mystic, struggles ‘to see’ the Inconceivable by the light of a synthetic logic and to translate into verbal symbols the unspeakable truth within and without. -- Conrad's logic is the dream-logic of the infinite, the logic of analogy. Expressed analogically as sea, dream, mirror, woman and jungle, the Infinite is mutually-reflected within the craftsman, mankind and the universe. Conrad’s works are themselves dreams, dramatic performances of the absurd in a universal playhouse of multiple inter-changing optical and moral perspectives and identities, in which distinctions between reality and illusion, actor and spectator, good and evil, order and anarchy, dreaming and waking are ambiguous and obscure. Immersed in this dream-like, timeless element of contradictions, Conrad's protagonists, landsmen and seamen, initially ignorant of the truth of existence, become ‘raving somnambulists’ afloat in a sea of 'ice or flame.’ Their subsequent interior vision, a-learned unknowing of truth, coincides with catastrophe. -- The widespread failure of critics to perceive Conrad as a dream-logician and prose-poet of the Infinite, rather than as a craftsman of mere facts and surface logic, accounts for much of the mistranslation of Conrad's semantics of the Inscrutable, for the general misreading of his achievement within the tradition of Western letters, and for the mistaken charges that Conrad sentimentalized women and 'the seaman-self.’ Conrad's ironic dream-logic, the logic of the Inscrutable, pervades the corpus of his work and provides its single underlying formal theme. Mankind, 'the intimate alliance of contradictions,' is Conrad's perennial subject.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5448
Item ID: 5448
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 331-353.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1976
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924--Criticism and interpretation

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