English 545:  Major Authors—Joseph Conrad     Spring 2013
Updated April 25, 2013

Blackboard Access

Useful Links

Richard Ruppel                                                                                            
Thursdays, 7-9:50pm, Jim & Lynn Doti Hall, Room 105
428 N. Glassell, 101
Phones(714) 997-6754 (Office)
Office HoursTuesday & Thursday, 10:30-11:30am, Wednesday 1-2pm, and by appointment

Course Description & Goals: 

Our goal will be to explore the major novels and several stories by Joseph Conrad, more-or-less in chronological order, to discover how his ideas and art developed.  We’ll analyze his major themes:  the clash of cultures; modern alienation; the limits of capitalism and other real and imagined economic, social, and political systems; the limits of knowledge; the impossibility of real intimacy between men and women, and other themes a long-time Conrad reader might have missed.   As an artist, Conrad is best known for his work with certain literary techniques:  the unreliable narrator, a form of impressionism known as “delayed decoding,” and, especially, his elaborate explorations of epistemology, of how we know what we know.  So we’ll spend some time exploring Conrad’s experiments in prose.  I'm at work on a book concerned with Conrad's (inconsistent) politics, so I'll be especially interested in what we learn about his politics this semester. 

To understand Conrad’s ideas and art, we’ll need help, so we’ll consult the extensive criticism devoted to Conrad’s work, along with biographies and histories. 

Your goal will be to produce a publishable essay. 

Required Texts:

1.  The Portable Conrad.  Penguin, ISBN: 9780143105114

2.  Lord Jim, ed. Allan Simmons, Penguin, ISBN:  978-01-141-44161-0

3.  Nostromo, Penguin, ISBN: 9780141441634

4.  Under Western Eyes, ed. Paul Kirschner, Penguin.  ISBN:  0-14-018287-X

Instructional Strategies:  I’ll give mini-lectures, especially when we start a new story or novel, and we’ll engage in the usual discussions that typify literature classes.  But we’ll also work together in groups, and I’ll ask you to develop an expertise in a particular area and present your findings, either individually or as part of a group, during the last third of the semester. 

Methods of Evaluation:

Brief written responses to your reading  & criticism responses     20% 

2 brief (5-7 pages) essays                                                               20%, 25%

One 12-14 page essay due at the end of the semester                 35%

Weekly Readings & Paper Assignments*:

January 31:  Introduction

February 7: The Nigger of the Narcissus & its “Preface” (1897)

February 14: "Outpost of Progress" (1897), Heart of Darkness (1899)

February 21:  Heart of Darkness – discussion of critical essays and topics for the first essay

February 28:  Lord Jim (1900).   

March 7:  Lord Jim(First essay due.)

March 14:  Nostromo (1904).

March 21:  Nostromo
pring Break

April 4:  The Secret Agent (1907)

April 11:  The Secret Agent

April 18:  Under Western Eyes (1911) (Second Essay Due)

April 25:  Under Western Eyes

May 2: Student presentations.

May 9:  Student presentations.  

May 14:  11am – “Conrad and Marx:  An Uneasy Affinity” – Laura Scudder Conference Room, Roosevelt.     

Final Essays due May 16

*I may modify this schedule of readings, but I'll give you plenty of notice. We’ll also read some other short fiction.  

Attendance:  Missing more than one class will lower your grade unless you provide acceptable evidence that the absence was unavoidable. 

Reading:  This is a reading intensive course.  Be sure to have the story or novel read before we begin our class discussions.

Essay Format:  Please submit both hard copies and electronic copies (via email) of your essays in MSWord, using MLA documentation format. 

Chapman University Academic Integrity Policy

Chapman University is a community of scholars that emphasizes the mutual responsibility of all members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith.  Students are responsible for doing their own work, and academic dishonesty of any kind will be subject to sanction by the instructor and referral to the university's Academic Integrity Committee, which may impose additional sanctions up to and including dismissal.  (See the Undergraduate Catalog for the full policy.)

Students with disabilities Policy:  In compliance with ADA guidelines, students who have any condition, either permanent or temporary, that might affect their ability to perform in this class are encouraged to inform the instructor at the beginning of the term.  The University, through the Center for Academic Success, will work with the appropriate faculty member who is asked to provide the accommodations for a student in determining what accommodations are suitable based on the documentation and the individual student needs.  The granting of any accommodation will not be retroactive and cannot jeopardize the academic standards or integrity of the course.


For February 7:  Read The Nigger of the "Narcissus," Conrad's preface, and my brief essay on homoeroticism in The Nigger of the "Narcissus.".  (I’ll email the latter to you.) By noon Wednesday, February 6, send me an email responding to the following: 1st, identify the theme of this short novel, and 2nd, describe the most striking feature of Conrad’s approach to art in his famous “Preface” (famous because it’s his only extended discussion of his art). 
For February 14: In an email to me by noon, Wednesday, February 13, discuss the ways “An Outpost of Progress” both met and violated the expectations of its original readers, and discuss Marlow, the narrator of Heart of Darkness.  What is his relationship to his audience?  How reliable is he?  How interested should we be in his psychology?
For February 21:  Begin Lord Jim.  Be prepared to summarize one critical article or book chapter on Heart of Darkness.  Bring topics for your first essay.
For February 28:  Finish Lord Jim and email me an answer to one of the following questions by noon on the 27th:  1.  How are supposed to feel about Jim?  Explain.  2.  How reliable is Marlow as a narrator?  Explain.  3.  What effect is there from the fact that the story is told to a group of men?  4.  What roles do women have?  5.  How are content and form related in the novel?  (How, in other words, are the way the story is told and the content of the story related?)
For March 7:  First essay due.  Consult the description I sent around. 
For March 14:  Read the first two parts of Nostromo:  “The Silver of the Mine” and “The Isabels.” 
For March 21:  Finish the novel.  Find one interesting and significant article on Nostromo and be prepared to summarize it in class for us. 
For April 4:  Read The Secret Agent (and enjoy the break). 
For April 11:  Read and be prepared to summarize and critique a significant essay on The Secret Agent.  Bring in ideas for paper two, which is due April 18th.  And begin reading Under Western Eyes, which is a relatively big novel. 
For April 18:  Finish as much as possible of Under Western Eyes (at least through Parts I and II).  Bring in copies of your second essay (and send electronic copies to me).  If you need an extension, let me know. 
For April 25:  Finish Under Western Eyes.  Read and prepare to summarize & critique one significant article or book chapter on the novel.  Look at the introduction to the novel I wrote for Ting Zhao’s Chinese translation, in the Documents section of Blackboard.  (But don’t do this until you’ve finished the novel.) 
For May 2:  Student presentations on your final projects. 

Useful Links

The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’

·         Full text of Jerome Buckley's William Ernest Henley:  A Study of the "Counter-Decadence" of the 'Nineties.  Henley edited The New Review, where Conrad first published The Nigger of the "Narcissus." 

Heart of Darkness:

·         A history (timeline) of the Congo Free State – 1876-1908

·         Charles Stokes (the missionary/trader hanged in the Congo Free State in 1895). 

Lord Jim

·         Wreck Report of the Jeddah, the ship on which Conrad based the Patna. 


·         Matthew Waller’s annotated version.

The Secret Agent

·         Article in Slate about references to The Secret Agent after the World Trade Center bombings. 

·         Trailer from the 1996 film. 

Under Western Eyes

·         At the turn of the 20th century, Russian political debates pitted Slavophiles against WesternersSlavophiles believed in the fundamental superiority of Russian culture, with its Orthodox Church, village life, and peasant traditions.  Westerners looked to Western Europe as a model for what Russia might become. 


·         Nearly all of Conrad's texts are available online.  Check this Gutenberg site. 

·         "Conrad First:  The Joseph Conrad Periodical Archive."  A remarkable resource created and maintained by Stephen Donovan at the Uppsala University, Sweden.  Featuring photographs of the periodicals and books where Conrad's works first appeared.  Approximately 40,000 pages of text. 

·         The Joseph Conrad Society of America.   

·         The Joseph Conrad Society, UK.  Including resources for students.

·         "Conrad under California Skies" conference.   

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