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This study engages with the troubled question of authorial subjectivity and ethics in Modernism in general and in Conrad's short fiction in particular, and offers an original theoretical perspective, inspired by the work of Derrida and the early philosophical writings of M. M. Bakhtin. Part One of the book focuses on the relational dynamics in 'Under Western Eyes' and 'The Secret Sharer', and develops a 'heterobiographical' reading matrix, which serves as a psycho-textual and philosophical approach to modes of authorial presence in the text. Part Two offers close readings of ten short stories spanning the whole of Conrad's career and clustered into five chapters-'Writing and Fratricide', 'The Pathos of Authenticity', 'The Poetics of Cultural Despair', 'The Romantic paradox', and 'Addressing the Woman'.
This part of the book engages with the interpretative problems posed by these stories through a cultural-historical perspective, linking Conrad's essentially Romantic sensibility and his unique position on the threshold of Modernism with some of the issues that have emerged from the 'Postmodern turn': the relationship between metaphysics and subjectivity, the conception of inter-subjectivity as prior to and constitutive of subjectivity; the permeability of textual and psychological boundary-lines; and the desire for subjective aesthetization. These issues, which can all be traced back to the cultural crisis of the turn of the century, are still with us at the close of the millennium.