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Understanding ourselves: character and self-knowledge in Conrad and Shopenhauer

Stinchcombe, Norman (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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That Conrad was familiar with Schopenhauer’s philosophy has been proposed by literary scholars and seconded, in passing, by philosophers. This has resulted in one-way studies of literary influence. This thesis is instead a two-way study in the philosophy of literature. It shows how Schopenhauer’s philosophy can illuminate Conrad’s fiction and how the fiction can become an analytical tool for exploring the philosophy. There are two strands in Schopenhauer’s philosophy. One is uncompromisingly concerned with salvation and will-denial. The second focuses on self-knowledge and character, which leads to self-fulfilment and accommodation with the world. It is the latter strand, with character at its core, where the interests of the philosopher and creative writer coincide. My methodology is different from previous studies in that I propose Conrad’s direct source for Schopenhauer was not The World as Will and Idea but his essays, which are directed more towards the worldly strand of his philosophy. I argue that the use by literary scholars of Schopenhauer’s magnum opus as Conrad’s direct source has diverted them from his main area of interest in the philosophy, namely its approach to self-knowledge and character, and that this misplaced focus has tended to distort interpretations of his fiction.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Walker, Joss
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of Philosophy
Subjects:B Philosophy (General)
BD Speculative Philosophy
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:1343
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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