Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent

Spring 2016-2017

21006 / 31006

Bozena Shallcross

“Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent: (In)Action, Surveillance, Terrorism” This course centers on a close reading of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale and seeks how the novel’s relevance stems in equal measure from Conrad’s prophetic depiction of terrorism fused with his interest in a wider political process and his distrust of state power; in particular, the course explores how these forces determine the individual caught in a confining situation. We read The Secret Agent as a political novel, which in its struggle for solutions defies chaos as well as an imposition of a single ideology or one authorial point of view. In analyzing the formation of the narrative’s ideology we discuss Conrad’s historical pessimism that demonstrates with sustained irony how capitalism breeds social injustice that, in turn, breeds anarchism. The critical texts include several older but still influential readings of the novel’s political and social dimension (Jameson, Eagleton), as well as the most recent pronouncements of A Simple Tale’s complexity. All texts are in English. (B, G)