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Out of ContextThe Uses of Modernist Fiction$
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Michaela Bronstein

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190655396

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190655396.001.0001

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What Chronology Demands of Us

What Chronology Demands of Us

(p.111) 3. What Chronology Demands of Us
Out of Context

Michaela Bronstein

Oxford University Press

Why tell a story out of order? Conrad’s narrative experiments are usually read as reflecting a skeptical attitude toward human achievement and knowledge: he tells events out of order, critics suggest, in order to question whether any version of events is more valid than any other; experience dissolves into fragmentary chaos. This chapter shows that by upending chronology, Conrad instead provokes the reader to see the connections between different moments, and to become invested in the process of using disparate perspectives as material for the reader’s own single understanding. In Conrad’s chronological and perspectival experiments, Ngũgĩ sees tools for acknowledging the complexity of events—like British actions during the state of emergency in Kenya—while at the same time compelling his readers to take a political and moral stand on them. He uses achronology and multiple voices to demand an international audience’s engagement with the crises and dilemmas of decolonization.

Keywords:   Joseph Conrad, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, narration, chronology, postcolonial, African fiction, literary influence

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