Space and Empire in the Fiction of Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene

Andy Purssell

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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My thesis is a dual-author study of the Polish-born novelist Joseph Conrad and the English novelist Graham Greene. It examines how space is used, imagined and theorized by Conrad and Greene, two authors whose fiction charts the making and unmaking of empire – Conrad its apogee, Greene its decline – between the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. Because the theory and practice of empire is fundamentally bound-up with its manipulation and control, “space” – an increasingly important area of debate in colonial and postcolonial studies – offers an illuminating approach to two authors whose fiction, then as now, has helped shape how we think about empire. Drawing on a wide range of primary materials including prefaces, essays, reviews and letters, this study builds on previous research into Conrad’s literary influence on Greene by exploring a shared imaginative investment between the two in the European imperial project, particularly its geographical character and effects. Accordingly, the arguments laid out and developed in this study centre on Conrad and Greene’s engagement with key issues of cultural and historical geography, including: spaces of performance, play and authenticity in contemporary cultures of travel and exploration; imperial cartography and the achievement of “closed space” at the turn of the twentieth century; the fantasy of the imperial archive and an empire unified by information; the centrality of the scopic drive in the imperial project; and the relationship between constructions of “race” and “place” in the colonial settlement of British West Africa and Australia. Modern spatial theory conceives of space not as inert, but as invested with cultural meaning; as being, in short, culturally produced. As two authors for whom matters of space and representation, as well as empire, were key concerns, Conrad and Greene are well-placed to provide new insights into the imperial production, and uses, of space during the colonial period.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hampson, Robert, Supervisor
Award date1 Aug 2011
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011


  • Space
  • Empire
  • Conrad
  • Greene
  • Imperialism
  • Geography

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