Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Literary Criticism English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh

The Discerning Narrator

Conrad, Aristotle, and Modernity

by (author) Alexia Hannis

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2022
English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, 20th Century, 19th Century, Essays
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2022
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


The Discerning Narrator sheds new light on Joseph Conrad’s controversial critique of modernity and modernization by reading his work through an Aristotelian lens. The book proposes that we need Aristotle – a key figure in Conrad’s education – to recognize the profound significance of Conrad’s artistic vision.


Offering Aristotelian analyses of Conrad’s letters, essays, and four works of fiction, Alexia Hannis illuminates the philosophical roots and literary implications of Conrad’s critique of modernity. Hannis turns to Aristotle’s ethical formulations to trace what she calls "the discerning narrator" in Conrad’s oeuvre: a compassionate yet sceptical guide to appraising character and conduct. The book engages with past and current Conrad scholarship while drawing from Aristotle’s Poetics, Politics, and Nicomachean Ethics, as well as classical scholars to offer original philosophical analyses of major and understudied Conrad’s works.


Drawing on Aristotle, Hannis provides a fresh context for making sense of Conrad’s self-differentiation from modernity. As a result, The Discerning Narrator provides an affirmation of literature’s invitation to wonder about the possibilities inherent in human nature, including the potential for painful depravity, heroic excellence, and ordinary human happiness.

About the author

Alexia Hannis teaches at Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning and the University of Guelph-Humber and she is a writing tutor at Victoria College, University of Toronto.

Alexia Hannis' profile page