Petra Mitic

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Unlike Edward Said, who insisted that, while demystifying the hypocrisy of imperial mastery, Joseph Conrad still remained a faithful employee of the imperial system and a colonial writer basically, the approach taken here goes in a different direction. It is argued that the narrative strategies, applied masterfully in both novels, serve, in fact, to reveal a lethal politics of space which generates otherness in such a way that the superior attitude towards the ideologically constructed other has become a pattern one is expected to take for granted. In both novels, it is this imperial mechanism that commands the central space of both action and meaning. The characters are defined in terms of their position towards the oppressive politics which, after having internalized it successfully, they either defend and promote, or, like Conrad's controversial narrator, start to question, showing themselves and others, as well as the reader, that it is neither inevitable nor desirable. Some of them, like Adela Quested and doctor Aziz in A Passage to India, are faced with a most harrowing ordeal of (self)-examination, which results in a spatial displacement for both characters, but appears to be the first necessary step towards acknowledging a full subjectivity to the Other. Here, the process of othering has gone both ways – the imperial othering is coupled with the othering of the white British woman – the idea being to show the inner workings of the mechanism in which the borderline between the victimized and the victimizer is not at all so clearly defined or transparent. The underlying idea of the necessity of self-recognition and the consistent focus on the inner space where otherness is either denied or acknowledgded is what contributes to the relevance of the two tales, going beyond the time and the historical context in which both of them originated.  


E.M. Forster, Joseph Conrad, narrative ambiguities, politics of space, imperial othering, gender dynamics

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