to be presented at the annual conference of the Joseph Conrad Society (U.K.) in June-July 2016 at U Edinburgh Napier.
Early crowd analysts assumed in the individual crowd-member a proportionate loss of rational judgment, stable emotion and self-acknowledgment of responsibility. This theoretical bias propped up a traditional understanding of crowd-membership as a relinquishment of a mythic autonomy. Conrad approached the problematic from another direction; he experimented with conceptualizing the crowd as prior to and constitutive of, the individual, as when he shows an unreliable narrator’s effort to construct Jim from outside perceptions and the residual of his social networks, or how the mass body absorbs Stevie’s death. This paper brings together recent work on mediated lives and the mass body to read a set of Conrad’s character biographies as social and collective centres of focus, and to generate some ideas about their effects.