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Conradian Contracts

Exchange and Identity in the Immigrant Imagination

Tamas Juhasz

Hardback
eBook
This book treats Joseph Conrad's simultaneous interests in exchange, contracts, and the condition of displacement. The central hypothesis is that the novelist's characters face the option of signing or rejecting what might, with some generalization, be called a social covenant. These individuals conduct a lonely or marginal existence and, to ease their isolation, they would like to (re)enter a community. For this reason, they are ready to contribute to larger collective causes and comply with those restrictions that social life, in its contractual aspect, requires. As Julia Kristeva puts it, "The foreigner is the one who works," yet engagement in transactions in order to earn a social position is fraught with difficulties. In return for their contribution, these hard-working characters do not always receive the compensation that they had in mind, especially when their definition of companionship violates the boundaries of legality and social propriety. Their private, illicit interests are bound to clash with communal ones, and the ensuing negotiating, readjustment, or compromise-seeking either crush the individual party or result in a redefinition of the notion of contract.

This link between exchange and displacement is explored in nine narratives. Just as the concept of exile is used in a broad, often metaphorical sense (ranging from characters who are actual migrants through individuals who occupy a marginal position within their native community to individuals who are caught between conflicting cultural-economic models), the trade or contractual alliance that can create, or at least promise, a sense of communal belonging and personal recognition is also manifold in its definition. Although it always includes, if to varying degrees, the transference of economic goods or entering a specific agreement, exchange is never limited to legal-material procedures.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 238Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7391-4553-1 • Hardback • April 2011 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
978-0-7391-4555-5 • eBook • April 2011 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
Tamás Juhász is assistant professor in the English Department at Károli Gáspár University in Budapest, Hungary.
Chapter 1: Commerce and Return in Almayer's Folly
Chapter 2: "Trans-Ports of Love": Exchange as Practice and Narrative
Chapter 3: Never Keeping to Oneself: A Total Social Fact in "Typhoon" and "The Secret Sharer"
Chapter 4: Paternal Discourse and Contractual Revision in Under Western Eyes
Chapter 5: "The Duel": Rules and Reciprocities, or Blows for Sheer Love
Chapter 6: A "Supreme Illusion": Acts of Recognition in The Secret Agent
Chapter 7: Trade, Meaning and the Prospects of Self-Transformation in Lord Jim
Chapter 8: The End of Potlatching: Gift and Prestige in Nostromo
Chapter 9: Sympathy, Generosity and the Business of Womanhood in Chance
Chapter 10: Conclusions and Words after Conrad's
Critical interest in Joseph Conrad has been dominated in recent years by postcolonial critics and some very good work has come from those quarters, but this book has the potential to open a new and much wider critical conversation about Conrad. The sensitive deployment of the concepts of contract and exchange yields incisive insights that will enrich Conrad studies in the future. . . . Conrad is one of the giants of English fiction in the twentieth century and Tamás Juhász has made a notable contribution to our understanding of an important body of work.
John Xiros Cooper, University of British Columbia


The book presents a plausible, carefully reasoned, well illustrated thesis explaining how displaced characters in Conrad's works seek communal recognition, psychological security, companionship, love, and honor through economic transactions even though their efforts are rewarded only on a conditional basis. To support this thesis, the author calls upon a wide range of theorists, including Marcel Mauss, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Karl Polanyi, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, and Wieslaw Krajka.
Leonard Moss, Professor Emeritus, SUNY Geneseo


Fresh, eloquent, exciting, and original, Conradian Contracts is perhaps the finest synoptic study we have of the broad relationship in Conrad between trade and social identity, between the spheres of economic transaction and of socio-cultural and psychological integration. Engaging wide reaches of Conrad’s writings through a sophisticated interweave of contemporary psychoanalytic, anthropological, and economic theoretical registers, Juhász exposes the 'business' of literature in Conrad, and the horizons of 'commerce' Conrad’s work addresses and interpenetrates, in the fullest and most seductive senses of those terms. A most impressive book of first-order thought and literary criticism.
Peter Mallios, University of Maryland


Juhász (Károli Gápár Univ., Budapest, Hungary) focuses on a previously unstudied aspect of Conrad's works: contracts and exchange. Examining nine of Conrad's fictional works--Almayer's Folly, Typhoon, Under Western Eyes, The Secret Agent, Lord Jim, Nostromo, Chance, and two short stories--Juhász considers such issues as social contracts, changes in established orders of trade, and gender contracts. He considers how exile, isolation, and other forms of displacement are strongly tied to exchange and contracts. He concludes by looking at three texts by other authors to show that the relationship between exile and transactions is not unique to Conrad's fiction. A valuable contribution to Conrad studies. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.
CHOICE


With Conradian Contracts, the author has produced a valuable contribution to Conrad studies both nationally and internationally. It is important for scholarship coming from Hungary to have an international presence, and Juhász's study is one of those books that will very likely make their presence felt outside the borders as well. It will do so mainly by virtue of its boldly interdisciplinary approach and its strong readings of individual Conrad works. ... The overall impression is of a carefully argued and rigorous exploration of complex and as yet hardly studied inter-relationships in the fiction of this great novelist.
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