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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Joseph Conrad’s the Secret Agent and the grotesque Marrs, Brian George

Abstract

This thesis seeks to examine Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent in the context of the grotesque mode. Part I discusses narrative and narrative style as a function of the dynamic relationship between text and reader, and emphasizes the degree to which the interplay between text and reader may be determined and manipulated by the author's esthetic exploitation of the conventions and expectations that comprise this relationship. The discrepancy between narrative and reader expectation as a potential source of the grotesque the nature of the grotesque as a critical concept and as a mode possessing specific forms, images, and effects, and the historical development of the grotesque, are examined in Part II. Particular attention is paid to the modern development of the grotesque mode, to the use of the grotesque in the novel, to the specifically literary features of the grotesque and to the creative aspects of the mode. Part III investigates the narrative structures of The Secret Agent, and reveals the various characteristic grotesque motifs, images, and characters that perform important esthetic functions in the narrative. The extensive presence of the grotesque at this level suggests an examination of the narrative structure perspective, and style within the context of the grotesque. This leads to an explanation for the apparent discrepancies between perspective and content in The Secret Agent, and provides a unified description of those aspects of perspective, style, and language which determine the narrative function and effect. At a more speculative level, the grotesque mode also suggests certain creative attitudes and psychological motives which might be associated with the novel.

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