Detecting the Power

Reading around J. Hillis Miller’s incisive reflection on Heart of Darkness lead me serendipitously to Lord Jim, a favourite from a mostly-forgotten Conrad phase. I had underlined and appended an exclamation mark to the following sentence in chapter 12:

” . . . that mysterious, almost miraculous, power of producing striking effects by means impossible of detection which is the last word of the highest art.”

Detecting the means of that power is what Miller does effectively in his study of Conrad’s nihilism. But, in a much smaller sense, I suppose, it is what all of us that have the temerity to comment on literature at least aspire toward.

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