The Imperial Quest and Modern Memory from Conrad to Greene
By Julia Rawa
Routledge – 2005 – 166 pages
The Imperial Quest and Modern Memory explores relationships between narrative and imperium in the context of Western Modernism by examining the Quest as a vexed trope in Heart of Darkness, Passage to India, The Sheltering Sky, and The Quiet American. The book takes stock of twentieth century theory regarding the Quest--as archetype, trope, and construct, considers the dominant expression and the imperial organization of this trope in Western culture and iconography from the Dark Ages to the Age of Empire, explores the ways in which this trope both lingers and changes in the context of Western Modernism, and finally gauges its permutations in Modern discourse. The Imperial Quest and Modern Memory's central claim is that the Modern novel simultaneously reinscribes and subverts Western and imperial manifestations of the Quest. Heart of Darkness, Passage to India, The Sheltering Sky, and The Quiet American are remarkably Modern and subversive narratives. They participate in the revolutionary projects of early and high Modernism and are often in marked opposition to imperial praxis. Yet they are also profoundly influenced by the deep ideological and metaphoric structures of Western culture. Thus, the Quest trope--specifically in its Western and imperial manifestations--lingers in Modern Memory and certainly in the Modern novel. This expansive study emphasizes intriguing intersections between past and present, culture and archetype, norm and narrative, memory and contemporaneity.