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Gossip at Work: Scandal, Professionalism, and Community in Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim

Gossip at Work: Scandal, Professionalism, and Community in Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim This essay considers the central role of gossip in Lord Jim (1902) as Joseph Conrad's response to the end of the working age of global sail and the rise of modern professionalism in the first decades of the twentieth century. While several critical readings mention the presence of professional gossip in Conrad's fictions, this essay contends that his use of gossip in Lord Jim represents a significant engagement with questions regarding the function of orality in the modern novel. Lord Jim juxtaposes idle talk with physical labour in depicting characters talking about professional-related matters rather than performing maritime labour. In the contrast between talk and toil, Conrad's novel asks: What is work? Lord Jim redefines the concept by showing that gossip is an essential speech mode for executing the necessary work of establishing and reinforcing professional identity. This novel complicates dominant cultural understandings of labour and communication at the century's start, at the same time destabilising categorical distinctions between oral storytelling and gossip. These subversions illuminate a number of ways in which the latter can be understood as a generative mode for narrating the experience of a world transformed by modernisation. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modernist Cultures Edinburgh University Press

Gossip at Work: Scandal, Professionalism, and Community in Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim

Modernist Cultures , Volume 12 (3): 23 – Nov 1, 2017

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Edinburgh University Press
ISSN
2041-1022
eISSN
1753-8629
DOI
10.3366/mod.2017.0185
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This essay considers the central role of gossip in Lord Jim (1902) as Joseph Conrad's response to the end of the working age of global sail and the rise of modern professionalism in the first decades of the twentieth century. While several critical readings mention the presence of professional gossip in Conrad's fictions, this essay contends that his use of gossip in Lord Jim represents a significant engagement with questions regarding the function of orality in the modern novel. Lord Jim juxtaposes idle talk with physical labour in depicting characters talking about professional-related matters rather than performing maritime labour. In the contrast between talk and toil, Conrad's novel asks: What is work? Lord Jim redefines the concept by showing that gossip is an essential speech mode for executing the necessary work of establishing and reinforcing professional identity. This novel complicates dominant cultural understandings of labour and communication at the century's start, at the same time destabilising categorical distinctions between oral storytelling and gossip. These subversions illuminate a number of ways in which the latter can be understood as a generative mode for narrating the experience of a world transformed by modernisation.

Journal

Modernist CulturesEdinburgh University Press

Published: Nov 1, 2017

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