The Empty Centre of Conrad's Nostromo: A New Economic Approach
Criticism of Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo frequently alights on the problem of the novel’s so-called ‘empty centre’. This presumed absence has been read in numerous ways: as a feature of the novel’s style, as indicative of ideological difficulty, and as a failure of imagination on the part of its author. This essay takes a New Economic critical approach to argue that a re-evaluation of Nostromo’s empty centre is overdue. In a reading that advances existing Marxist and postcolonial readings of Conrad’s work, the essay offers an analysis of three varieties of ‘empty centre’ found in the novel: history, silver, and the ‘material interest’. Ultimately, Conrad is shown to locate an empty centre in contemporary economic thought, and to construct a mimesis of this absence in the novel’s rhetorical and narrative structures.
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