[ilds] Bitter Lemons and Academe

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 5 15:26:27 PDT 2016


James,

Thanks for being candid.  So, I’ll do likewise.  I think I’ve said all that needs to be said about Achebe on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  I’m with Ian Watt (among other Conradians) and his criticisms of the Nigerian’s charge of JC being a “bloody” or “thoroughgoing racist.”  Both versions are utterly reckless and ridiculous, in my opinion, and another example of what has happened to the MLA over the past few decades.  Very sad.  I’m glad, however, that we agree on Durrell’s stance in Bitter Lemons.  Yes, a “unified method.”  Nevertheless, beware—what has happened to Joseph Conrad is sure to happen to Lawrence Durrell, if it hasn’t already!  On second thought, it surely has happened!

Best,

Bruce





> On Apr 5, 2016, at 2:40 PM, James Gifford <james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Hi Bruce,
> 
>> I’m not a fan of Achebe
> 
> I'll admit that I am, though that doesn't mean that I agree with him on everything.  His dispute with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o over language in African literature is great to teach, even if one doesn't actually pick a side.  I've taught his /Things Fall Apart/ for many years now.
> 
>> Regina Martin’s recent article in /PMLA/ suggests,
>> Achebe’s charge of Conrad’s “racism” is now
>> widely accepted as fact and would seem to have the
>> stamp of approval of the Modern Language
>> Association.  (Interestingly, Martin does not cite
>> Achebe; apparently, she felt no need to reference
>> the obvious.)
> 
> I'd agree on both points.  It is widely accepted by a section of the critical community, and that's also why she doesn't need to refer to it directly.  That said, there's certainly still dispute.  If I may suggest an older title, Stephen Ross' /Conrad & Empire/ covers this terrain and Achebe as well as complex responses by Christ GoGwilt and Andrea White (4–5, 187) -- Ross spoke at the Victoria OMG conference, and I'm biased toward his reading, but I think it's very well done.  It's in ebrary if you have access.
> 
>> One of the things I’ve always liked about
>> Durrell and his epigraphs ... is how he places
>> one foot in the present and another in the past,
>> deep time.
> 
> I'm in complete agreement on that -- those ties to deep time, allusions to passed landscapes and past texts are more than literary gestures.  I think they're a call to the outlines of history in our modern lives, like the trace or a palimpsest.  I don't think it's a stretch to see the same pattern at work in his composition method, the structure of his narratives, and the role of both allusion and epigrams.  It strikes me as a unified method.
> 
> All best,
> James

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