Impressionism in Literature: Joseph Conrad & James Joyce. This essay attempts to give a brief comparison between two of the major representatives of the English Modernism, James Joyce and Joseph Conrad. Although these two writers come from very different backgrounds, they share the rejection of conventional realism and the search for new way to approach reality. In doing this, I will focus on the presence on Impressionistic ideas and in the new methods they will employ to depict reality. First of all, a swift definition of Impressionism in literature hooked be given.
Many critics have argued that both in Jockey’s and Concord’s writings we could find impressionistic ideas, a new methodology of acknowledging the human experience. Impressionism have is origins in a exhibition in 1984 of a group of painters in which Monet stood out. Although the group was not especially homogeneous, they characterized by represent the way in which one person sees something at one moment in time, impressions of a particular and singular moment. They focused in the censorial aspect of how human beings experience the world vying great stress to subjectivity.
In order to do this, they employ light and color which produce a censorial impact on the onlooker. In this liking way, literature tries to adapt the new techniques of painting to writing. They also stress subjectivity rejecting the old traditional emphasis upon order, thought and clearness. They provide us with a new perspective of the relation of individual with everyday world relaying on the censorial aspects of the experience. Apart from that, we find another particular characteristics in impressionistic writing: They rejected traditional emphasis on order and clearness, usually related with the conventions of Realism.
Ambiguity prevails through the narration being the reader who has to form his own conclusion about the story The moment and the ephemeral is also very important. Description usually are told in a kind of accidental report, when the event are occurring. The details of the action are described through the eyes of the character when still happening and not when he/she has already processed the action (delayed decoding). This technique gives also a sense of ambiguity. The landscape is usually scribed with uncommon adjectives that are more concerned with human emotions than with depiction of the scenery.
This and the repeatedly usage of images of fog, haze, mist or light and shadows produces a kind of dreamy and mysterious atmosphere where things seem to be blurred. Now, we come to analyze the following passage of Concord’s Heart of Darkness on the basis of Impressionism. “l saw a face amongst the leaves on the level with my own, looking at me very fierce and steady; then suddenly, as though a veil had been removed from my eyes, I made out deep in angled gloom, naked breast, arms, legs, glaring eyes – the bush was swarming with human limbs in movement, glistening bronze color.
The twigs shook, swayed, and rustled, the arrows flew out of them, and then the shutter came to. ” Here, Concord’s impressionist style permits the the reader to experience the events at the same time that Marrow does. The technique, commonly denominated as delayed decoding, tell us the details of the action before the protagonist has processed the action itself. This give us sensation of confusion, as we have to re-read the passage to really see hat is happening.
Actually, this is quite similar to the painting techniques of Impressionism by which the clearest image of the picture can be only seen from certain distance of the canvas. In the following passage, also taken from Heart of Darkness, we can see the special characteristics of impressionistic descriptions. “The sun set; the dusk fell on the stream, and lights began to appear along the shore. The Chapman light-house, a three-legged thing erect on a mud-flat, shone strongly. Lights of ships moved in the fairway a great stir of lights going up and going down.
And farther west on the upper reaches the place of the monstrous town was still marked ominously on the sky, a brooding gloom in sunshine, a lurid glare under the stars. ” Here we have a description of the setting where prevails the use of light. In every line appear a reference to specific light (sun, dusk, light-house, stars, glare… ). The description of the atmosphere of the setting is very detailed which produces the effect of certain mood, a kind of mysterious image.
Moreover, we find many reference o water (stream, shore, mud-flat, fairway) that makes the image blurred before our eyes. In t he collection of short stories Edibleness, specially in “Arab” and “Beeline,” sense perception, like sight, sound, touch, smell, are very important. The descriptions make the reader feel the sensations described, the smells, the sounds… This might be the one most outstanding feature of Joyce ‘s descriptions in Edibleness. In the following passage of Arab, we can find this references to receptions: “It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house.
Through one of the broken ones I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring (… )” So although both Joyce and Conrad share the same interest on the subjectivity, on how their characters experience reality, we can state that they differ slightly in the way of achieving this AOL.
In this examples, Joyce focuses on all the senses to transport the reader into the experience of his characters whereas Conrad visual descriptions reminds the reader of one of the main characteristics of Impressionist paintings : the interest on atmosphere and lighting effects. Bibliography. Kroger, Maria E. “Literary Impressionism” De. : New Haven, CT : College ; University Press, 01973. Slapstick, Mercedes. “Literary Analysis of Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. ” Helium. ;http://www. Helium. Com/items/855651-