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Spenglerian Echoes and the Decline of Englishness in Under the Volcano

Théories spenglériennes du déclin dans Under the Volcano
Christine Vandamme
p. 57-68


L’influence des théories spenglériennes sur l’écriture de Under the Volcano est essentielle et la topographie du roman, qu’elle soit réelle ou imaginaire, contribue à renforcer l’image centrale commune aux deux œuvres, à savoir la figure du gouffre, de la barranca, espace de la fêlure symbolique et du déclin culturel d’une civilisation occidentale à l’agonie. Au-delà des nombreux échos entre les deux ouvrages, se dessine une réflexion sur une identité britannique au bord de l’implosion, réduite à une simple façade, une impasse frappée de stérilité et de faux-semblants, un fil tendu au dessus d’un abîme dévorant, qui n’est pas sans rappeler le cœur des ténèbres de Conrad ou encore la terre vaine d’Eliot. Au lieu d’un ancrage identitaire, le roman explore la dimension éthique de la marge, de l’équilibre instable et s’interroge sur le choix du plongeon final dans le cloaque.

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  • 1 In his letter to Jonathan Cape, Lowry presents the setting of his novel: “the scene is Mexico, the (...)

1Writing about another country is often only a disguised way of discussing one’s own identity or culture. In Under the Volcano, Lowry reflects not only on what it means to be English, but what it means to be a western man in the first half of the twentieth century, at a time when the West and Western Empires are in decline. Mexico is this elsewhere which, at the time, greatly fascinated Western writers and British writers in particular not only because it was an exotic place providing the creative licence and critical distance towards one’s homeland that the “other place” often suggests but also because, as Lowry said, it has always been an “age-old arena of racial and political conflicts”,1 a country which successive Western imperialistic powers have tried to control before finally losing ground: there was first Mexico’s final independence from Spain after centuries of colonisation, then the melodramatic failure of the French attempt to impose an Austrian emperor, and lastly, the abrupt end put to American and English economic imperialism with widespread expropriations in 1938, the year when most of the novel unfolds. As such, Mexico is a place that is emblematic of the decline of Western empires and it enables Lowry to see his homeland, England, from another angle, that of its inexorable decline as a Western nation.

2In Lowry’s Under the Volcano just as in Spengler’s Decline of the West, runs the idea that Western culture, or, to be more precise, Western civilisation, is in crisis, that it has reached its old age, an age of decline, decadence and decay. Elsewhere in the novel is thus used as a symptom of the decline of Western culture and, more particularly, British culture. The main protagonist of the novel, an ex British Consul, is there as a symbol of such a demise and the setting for his final plunge is Mexico, a land of death, corruption, symbolised by a deep chasm, the barranca. It will also be interesting to wonder about the role of other places in the novel, notably the paradisiacal counterpart to hellish Mexico–British Columbia. The Consul’s constant hesitation between the barranca and the lake, Hell and Paradise, Mexico and British Columbia, suggests modern man’s exile on the earth, a persistent sense of homelessness and rootlessness, which will be analysed as a major motif running through Lowry’s and Spengler’s works.

  • 2 For more details on the Consul’s implication in the imperialistic exploitation of the country’s res (...)

3They both evince a definite fascination for cultures, their evolution and history as a question of organic growth and decay (Spengler 21–22). Mexico, as this elsewhere where European economic and political imperialism has reigned supreme, is a symptom of the decline of the West. According to Spengler, cultures are born, then develop and finally degenerate into civilisations before finally dying. All civilisations go through a phase of compulsive expansion, which he calls an “expansive tendency” and which corresponds to an imperialistic phase: “[. . .] Imperialism is to be taken as the typical symbol of the passing away. Imperialism is Civilization unadulterated. In this phenomenal form the destiny of the West is now irrevocably set” (Spengler 36–37). Even if most of the novel actually takes place in 1938, a crucial year in the final demise of Western economic imperialism, with the nationalisation of foreign oil companies, the Consul remains a very ambiguous figure. It is suggested he must also have his own interest in mind when deciding to remain in Mexico despite the break of diplomatic relations between England and Mexico as a result of Cardenas’s policies. Several elements in the novel imply he undoubtedly has financial interests in Mexico that he needs to look after, possibly by having to adopt Mexican identity.2

4Another point that Under the Volcano has in common with The Decline of the West is the sense that Western civilisation is not going “upwards and onwards” (Spengler 39) any longer but has reached a dead end, and is in fact falling downhill, down into the barranca, a recurrent spatial leitmotif. Lowry even takes up the central metaphor at the core of The Decline of the West, namely that of the Faustian soul. If, as Spengler argues, the West is characterised by a prime symbol which is that of “pure and limitless space” (183), the “ideal that the Western soul had always striven to find” (175), the incredibly involuted and shrinking narrative of the novel is a sure sign of the decline of the Consul’s Faustian soul and, extensively, of the decay of Western culture. The novel starts at 7 am and ends with the death of the Consul, 12 hours later, at 7 pm. The 12 hours and the 12 chapters are a direct reference to his literary alter ego, Faust, who dies precisely at 12 pm in Marlowe’s famous play. Faust also plunges downhill, into gaping hell, just as the Consul plunges “into the volcano”, “through it all” “down the ravine”. The Consul’s doom is to plunge downhill, irrevocably, like Faust, like England, like Western culture.

5Such a demise and imminent death is inextricably linked with the recurrent motif of the abyss, the ravine, the barranca. The novel suggests the soul of Western culture is dying just like the soul of the British Empire and the soul of one of its representatives, the Consul. Its aspirations towards infinite space, towards lofty ideals of progress and expansion, whether material or spiritual, are now obliged to accept a sense of finitude. This is why the Consul proudly advocates a plunge downhill, away from metaphysical aspirations, into a barranca that embodies man’s finitude and doom. Lowry, in a letter to Gerald Noxon, evokes such a desire to be “led down the drain”, such a fascination for the precipice, the Conradian heart of darkness, whether one’s death, physical or spiritual, or the death of one’s culture or civilisation, Eliot’s wasteland: “I believe that Conrad’s early work sent one even further down the drain than Eliot’s, if possible. The trouble even with Eliot’s kind of drain is that it reeks of sanctity, whereas Conrad’s honestly and majestically stank. I see no reason why one should not be led down the drain: I believe it an important experience if the drain is fulsome enough” (Bowker 92). Just like Kurtz “lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines” (Conrad, 177), the Consul decides to make “that last stride” and “step over the edge” (Conrad, 179). The barranca, the ravine, the precipice, the wasteland, all these images refer to a sense that English and more generally Western culture is dying and that the poet or writer has an ethical duty, which is to explore such a spiritual wasteland, and to bring the reader to the edge of such a cultural precipice for the “survival of the human consciousness” (217), as the Consul says.

  • 3 For further reading, there is an excellent Deleuzian study of frozen time in Lowry’s novel: “Alcoho (...)

6In the novel, Elsewhere is mostly a place of decay and death. The Consul lives in a town, Quaunahuac, where all roads end on a barranca, which is symptomatic of the imminent death of Western culture: “Quaunahuac was like the times in this respect, wherever you turned the abyss was waiting for you round the corner” (15). Mexico becomes a mirror held out to the West and England in particular. And it is no coincidence if it should also be presented as a barren place. At the core of the novel, as is the case for numerous modernist novels according to Said, lies the haunting question of the impossibility of filiation, the failure of what he calls “the generative impulse” (Said 17). This is why the whole novel is, so to speak, included in the long first chapter. The ending of the novel has already been programmed: the death of the Consul and of Western culture. The second chapter, an analeptic chapter, just as the rest of the novel, only spells out the details of such a demise. As such it corresponds to the real beginning of the story and should therefore have started with the idea of development and endless possibility and yet it starts with death: “A corpse will be transported by express!” (43). The reader will then learn that the corpse is that of a child. Mexico in Under the Volcano is a barren land, a land where time has stopped or frozen, thus illustrating Spengler’s prophecy about Western culture’s decline. Among the numerous references to orphans, to dead or absent children in the novel, one is particularly interesting: “Yvonne and he should have had children, would have had children, could have had children, should have. . .” (223). The apparent impossibility to find the right modal as well as the aposiopesis signal an impossibility for the narrative to place itself in any temporal progressive line. Mexico is really a chronotope as Bakhtin defined it: both a place, a barren land, and a type of time, frozen time, at least as far as the Consul is concerned.3

7In fact, in Under the Volcano, the possibility of regeneration is relegated to another place altogether – British Columbia. As to home, England in other words, it is strongly put at a distance. The Consul is an Englishman but for him, there is no suggestion of going home to find any form of spiritual salvation. When he learns that English Consuls are being called home, he suggests that England can in no way be home for him any longer: “I shall perhaps go home but not to England, not to that home” (36). Another scene in which England is presented as an impossible place of redemption or regeneration is the moment when he meets an Englishman riding a beautiful English sportscar. Geoffrey has just collapsed right in the middle of the road from excessive drinking and his fellow countryman comes to his rescue (79). The Englishman has all the attributes of the perfect gentleman: he is said to speak with a “King’s Parade” voice, thus suggesting both that he might have been educated at Cambridge, as the name of the road indicates, but also that he is certainly proud to be a British subject. More significantly still, he is said to wear an “English striped tie, mnemonic of a fountain in a great court”, which is a reference to Trinity College, a prestigious college in Cambridge with a famous fountain in its Great Court. The Consul then elaborates on the image of the fountain when he recalls the lines of a former Trinity student, Andrew Marvell: “The Consul brushed the dust from his clothes; he sought for wounds in vain; there was not a scratch. He saw the fountain distinctly. Might a soul bathe there and be clean or slake its drought?” (80). The quotation is taken from ‘Clorinda and Damon’ by Andrew Marvell and suggests, in such a context, the idea of regeneration and purification through water, even though in the original poem, it had obvious sexual connotations which are partly obliterated here. The reference to Marvell, one of England’s most celebrated poets, thus implies a possible salvation through one’s cultural and literary heritage. The underlying irony of such a reference should not be overlooked though, as the reader then learns that the Englishman did not study at Trinity: his cousin did, as a matter of fact. An English symbol, the Trinity tie, is thus exposed as a lure, an empty sign, as is the case for most English symbols in the novel: the prestige associated with Englishness is evoked but presented as shallow or usurped. The fountain metaphor suggesting possible vitality, purification or rebirth for an English culture in decline also proves illusory when the Englishman reveals himself actually interested in another type of liquid, a far more prosaic and materialistic one – oil. Indeed, after having been exposed as a fraud, he then says, as if in passing: “Pity about all this oil business, isn’t it? Bad show” (80). Such a statement links up Englishness and oil interests and it also implies that here again, the Englishman is not worried about an actual state of affairs but about appearances. The decline of Englishness is thus presented as that of a culture which is becoming purely decorative and superficial and which is also progressively being replaced by material interests. All English places and symbols in the novel are thus emptied of their value and reveal what Spengler saw as a distinct sign of decline: the passage from culture to civilisation, from spiritual and cultural concerns to purely economic and materialistic ones.

8This is the reason why the only place of possible regeneration in the novel is not home, not England, even less Mexico, the hellish place of “eternal sorrow” (35), but utopian British Columbia; the place is presented in the novel as a sentimentalised avatar of Romantic aspirations towards a pristine place that would have escaped the corruption of civilisation and industrialisation. Interestingly enough, the first reference to this topos in the novel clearly insists on a sense of loneliness, silence and a certain remoteness from any industrial activity. The Consul imagines himself looking at the bay of an inlet on which he would live with Yvonne in a rough shack and the place seems to be eerily disconnected from any industrial activity: “I seem to see us living in some northern country, of mountains and hills and blue water; our house is built on an inlet and one evening we are standing, happy in one another, on the balcony of this house, looking over the water. There are sawmills half hidden by trees beyond and under the hills on the other side of the inlet, what looks like an oil refinery, only softened and rendered beautiful by distance” (37). Society and industry are only glimpsed from afar and strongly derealised and the little shack sounds incredibly regressive, as a safe place away from civilisation and its discontents. As such, British Columbia is an elsewhere that provides a comforting shelter, a paradisiacal place onto which each character can project his or her fantasies. The Consul knows fully well such a place is really nothing else than wishful thinking. He even says derisively that such a dream is another version of the American dream of going west: “British Columbia, the genteel Siberia, that was neither genteel nor a Siberia, but an undiscovered, perhaps an undiscoverable Paradise, that might have been a solution, to return there, to build, if not in his island, somewhere there, a new life with Yvonne. [. . .] My little grey home in the west” (353). Here the Consul associates British Columbia first to “genteel Siberia” and then to his “little grey home in the west”. The fact that he multiplies comparisons and metaphors underlines the profoundly imaginary and fantasmatic nature of such places. They are all assimilated as if they were interchangeable; the idea is that they are purely imaginary escapes, sheer mental projections, not real alternatives or actual places. Those passages in the pastoral vein are undeniably emblematic of the “discourse of retreat” characterising such a mode according to Gifford (Gifford 45); they do not have any precise topographical validity, they are above all “literary construct[s]”. Geoffrey is actually quite clear-sighted about the nature of such an idealised place that would mostly provide either oblivion or escape: “He was aware of a desire at once for complete oblivion and for an innocent youthful fling. ‘Alas,’ a voice seemed to be saying also in his ear, ‘my poor little child, you do not feel any of these things really, only lost, only homeless’” (354).

  • 4 T. S. Eliot famously summed up modern man’s predicament as a loss of proper roots or any fertile so (...)
  • 5 Pascale Tollance studies this “in-betweenness” with great subtlety, analyzing it also as a symptom (...)

9This sense of disorientation and homelessness is really what characterises places throughout the novel. It is obviously a well-known topos in modernist literature to project onto places a sense of rootlessness, homelessness and a general loss of landmarks4 but the originality in Under the Volcano is to constantly waver between Elsewhere as the hellish place of unredeemable sinners, in other words Mexico, and Elsewhere as the paradisiacal place that is undiscoverable and partly illusory, namely British Columbia or the past grandeur of England. Elsewhere in the novel is neither hell nor heaven, neither complete resignation nor satisfactory romantic yearning; it is in-between, it is about bridges, parapets, edges, precarious balance on infernal machines that might throw you overboard at any given time. Western man, and the Consul as his English representative, still belongs to Western culture and its endless striving towards redemption and spiritual achievement but he already senses his final fall and demise.5 If, as Spengler argues, Western culture has entered its final stage of development, its winter phase, there is no other alternative than accepting it and keeping one’s precarious balance over the barranca and looking right down into it for the “survival of human consciousness”. And it is interesting to note that both Spengler and Lowry have recourse to the same metaphor of the climber suspended over the void with only two possibilities, “going under” or “standing fast”, but in each case, the fall is inevitable: faced with the decline of Western civilisation, the “alternatives now are to stand fast or to go under—there is no middle course. The only moral that the logic of things permits to us now is that of the climber on the face of the crag—a moment’s weakness and all is over” (Spengler 430). As to the Consul, his fall “ha[s] been broken by a narrow ledge, a ledge from which he [can] neither climb up nor down, on which he [lies] bloody and half stunned, while far below him the abyss yawn[s], waiting” (361). So, to a certain extent, like Spengler, Lowry sees Western man in 1938 as being precariously suspended over an abyss and dangerously drawn towards its yawning gap. The Consul is unable to climb up to the top of any idealised Popocatepetl, or any Himavat like his father; there are no more cultural or spiritual summits for him to climb up to. But contrary to Spengler’s advocacy of a form of stoic acceptance of the course of events, the Consul chooses the plunge downhill willingly, through his deliberate passiveness.

10The British Consul is the exact antithesis to Spengler’s strong nations that will have to make the most of their “historical ‘fitness’” (431), to be “in condition”, to “keep their form” (431) in such troubled times. Such statements find a very ironical, not to say grotesque echo in the Consul’s utter lack of condition. Similarly, when Spengler advocates “honour, abnegation, discipline, the genuine sense of a great mission” or a “sense of duty and sacrifice”, this almost defines the exact contrary of the Consul’s behaviour. His honour is put “under a cloud” like Lord Jim’s, because of a shady episode on board the S.S. Samaritan, a British Q-ship which apparently sank a German submarine whose officers were then burnt alive in the furnaces. The captain having died, Geoffrey was supposed to be the one responsible on board. As to the Consul’s abnegation and discipline, they are far from self-evident when contrasted with his uncontrollable drinking. The irony is that if one takes all the characteristics supposed to define an Englishman, the Consul contradicts all of them: “The esteemed characteristics were those associated with masculinity, activity and concrete statement, and personal poise and self-mastery, together with a concern for racial purity or at least racial vigour” (Doyle 22). It would be easy to show how the Consul contradicts each one of these characteristics but the most relevant for our argument about the role of places in the novel is undoubtedly that of “personal poise and self-mastery”. Spatiality in the novel rhymes with instability, precarious balance, oscillation. Englishness in the novel is not a place or a home but a posture and a very uncertain and shifting one.

  • 6 Recurrent references to horses can be found in the novel and they exemplify a sense of turmoil or l (...)

11It is no coincidence if one of the main symbols running through the novel is that of the drunk rider. Not only is he unable to keep steady but he does not have any real contact with a land, whether a homeland or simply the ground: “The rider of the horse was so drunk he was sprawling all over his mount, [. . .] this maniacal vision of senseless frenzy, but controlled, not quite uncontrolled, somehow almost admirable, this too, obscurely, was the Consul. . .” (23)6. Such a central metaphor is valid not only for the Consul as an Englishman but for any Western man: “This drunken horseman is by implication the first appearance of the Consul himself as a symbol of mankind” (Cape 21). The drunkenness of the horseman is that of Western civilisation, a doomed civilisation trying to drink its decline away, to achieve some sort of oblivious good conscience through alcohol. As Hugh remarks, “Good God, if our civilization were to sober up for a couple of days it’d die of remorse on the third—” (117). So, the precarious balance of the horseman is an apt metaphor of the kind of precarious relationship Western man has with the land, his homeland and all the other types of land, places that he can only wander through but where he cannot place himself ideologically, politically or even genealogically, a wasteland in Eliot’s rich polysemous use of the term.

12Similarly, the episode of the Infernal Machine in chapter seven illustrates such a precarious position very clearly: the upside down position deprives him of his identity, of his political allegiances: “And it was scarcely a dignified position for an ex-representative of His Majesty’s government to find himself in, though it was symbolic, of what he could not conceive, but it was undoubtedly symbolic” (222). In fact such an undignified position is symbolic of the troubled political context of the time. Western European nations such as Britain and France had proved cowardly in not intervening either in Spain during the Civil War or in Czekoslovakia with the Munich agreement. As such they illustrate perfectly well the decline of the West characterised, according to Spengler, by the rise of despotism and caesarism on the one hand and the decline of parliamentary democracies on the other. Mexico is therefore this elsewhere which offers the West a far from flattering mirror image: a place of cultural, symbolic and political decline.

13If, as the novel seems to suggest, being English means discipline, duty, honour, selflessness, exemplarity when it serves one’s interests, but also deceit, cowardice, duplicity when other nations are concerned, British subjects are nothing more than Eliot’s hollow men, British identity is unmasked as an empty envelope, a “dead husk”, a “shape without form” and Great Britain and its objective correlative Mexico, as a barren “dead land”, a “cactus land”.

14The Mexican barranca for Lowry, but also the Congolese heart of darkness for Conrad or the London wasteland for Eliot are thus perfect illustrations of such duplicity and of the undeniable decline of British and Western culture in general. Where Lawrence sees in Mexico a place that can finally be redeemed through a new religion of the people, Lowry only sees a place of suspension of Western man’s destiny over a gaping barranca. And to that extent, the novel not only testifies to the sense of irremediable cultural decline from premodernism to high modernism but also prefigures its confirmation with the postmodernist cult of simulacra to cover up the yawning abyss of Origin, Authority and Language, the recognition that Man inhabits no other place than language and culture. But such a conclusion should not be interpreted as resignation. The Faustian soul of Western Man can always be born again from the ashes of his former language and culture: as Lowry, quoting Goethe, said in one of the epigraphs of the novel, “whosoever unceasingly strives upward. . . him can we save”.

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Ackerley, C. J., “Mexican History and Under the Volcano”, The Malcolm Lowry Review, 15 (Fall 1984): 24–44.

Ackerley, C. J., “Mexican History and Under the Volcano: Part 2”, The Malcolm Lowry Review, 16 (Spring 1985): 32–52.

Bowker, Gordon, Pursued by Furies, A Life of Malcolm Lowry, London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.

Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness (1899) in Heart of Darkness and Other Tales, Oxford: OUP, 2002.

Cripps, Michael, “‘Under the Volcano’. The Politics of the Imperial Self”, Canadian Literature 95 (Winter 1982): 85–101.

Deleuze, Gilles, The Logic of Sense (Logique du sens, 1969), translated by Mark Lester and Charles Stivale, Columbia UP, 1993.

Doyle, Brian, English and Englishness (1989), London and New York: Routledge, 2003.

Duplay, Mathieu, “‘Es Inevitable la Muerte del Papa’: souveraineté et abjection dans Under the Volcano”, Malcolm Lowry dans la modernité, conference organised by Josiane Paccaud in Lyon II, 19 Octobre 2007 (full text available on

Eliot T. S., “The Wasteland”, The Waste Land and other poems, London: Faber, 1940.

Gifford, Terry, Pastoral, London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

Kums, Guido, “Dovetailing in Depth: The Wasteland and Under the Volcano”, New Comparison: a Journal of Comparative and General Literary Studies, 5 (Summer 1988): 150–161.

Lowry, Malcolm, Under the Volcano (1947), London: Picador, 1993.

Lowry, Malcolm, The Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry, ed. Kathleen Scherf, Vancouver: UBC Press, 1992.

Lowry, Malcolm, “Letter to Jonathan Cape”, in Under the Volcano (1947), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962.

Said, Edward, The World, the Text, and the Critic (1947), London: Faber, 1984.

Spengler, Oswald, The Decline of the West (1918), London: Allen and Unwin, 1971.

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Note de fin

1 In his letter to Jonathan Cape, Lowry presents the setting of his novel: “the scene is Mexico, the meeting place, according to some, of mankind itself, pyre of Bierce and springboard of Hart Crane, the age-old arena of racial and political conflicts of every nature, and where a colourful native people of genius have a religion that we can roughly describe as one of death [. . .]” (19).

2 For more details on the Consul’s implication in the imperialistic exploitation of the country’s resources, see Michael Cripps’s illuminating article on the subject (Cripps, 87–89).

3 For further reading, there is an excellent Deleuzian study of frozen time in Lowry’s novel: “Alcoholism does not seem to be a search for pleasure, but a search for an effect which consists mainly in an extraordinary hardening of the present.” (179)

4 T. S. Eliot famously summed up modern man’s predicament as a loss of proper roots or any fertile soil that would enable him to fully grow: “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow/ Out of this stony rubbish [. . .]”. (The Waste Land, line 20, p. 27)

5 Pascale Tollance studies this “in-betweenness” with great subtlety, analyzing it also as a symptom of man’s wavering between humanity and barbarity (58). Places are oscillating between opposites, thus suggesting both confusion and a strange point of precarious balance: “La notion d’entre-deux semble donc ici pertinente à divers égards: elle permet d’abord de décrire un va-et-vient entre des pôles apparemment irréconciliables; mais elle finit par désigner une sorte de nulle part, une zone floue où toute opposition tend à s’abolir. Lieu d’une hésitation ou d’une confusion fatale, l’entre-deux est aussi dans le roman un point d’équilibre, certes précaire, où défauts et excès parviennent à nous faire rire, et où le Consul trouve malgré tout un “soupçon de rédemption” [. . .] (58).

6 Recurrent references to horses can be found in the novel and they exemplify a sense of turmoil or lack of control: they either suggest an abuse of power as is the case for the statue of Mexican dictator Huerta on his horse (44) or they imply an acknowledgement of powerlessness as is illustrated with repeated comparisons of the Consul to Don Quixote (39, 248). Huerta was a famous general who led a military coup and then established a violent dictatorship before fleeing to Europe and “drinking himself to death” (Ackerley 78). As to the Consul, he is responsible for Yvonne’s tragic death: she is trampled down by the loose frightened horse of the drunk rider, which Firmin has just released, thus indirectly suggesting the Consul’s choice of death rather than submitting to the fascist militias who have stolen the horse. So, in most cases, the horse stands for man’s failure in mastering his destiny or other people’s destiny. Under the Volcano is indeed a reflection on the question of mastery and sovereignty: what can mankind become when Man cannot choose between mastery which he considers usurped and a plunge into abjection? For further developments on this question of problematic sovereignty, see Mathieu Duplay’s illuminating article “Es Inevitable la Muerte del Papa”: souveraineté et abjection dans Under the Volcano.

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Christine Vandamme, « Spenglerian Echoes and the Decline of Englishness in Under the Volcano », Études britanniques contemporaines, 37 | 2009, 57-68.

Référence électronique

Christine Vandamme, « Spenglerian Echoes and the Decline of Englishness in Under the Volcano », Études britanniques contemporaines [En ligne], 37 | 2009, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2017, consulté le 18 novembre 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/ebc.3682

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Christine Vandamme

Université Stendhal Grenoble III.
Christine Vandamme est maître de conférences à l’université Stendhal, Grenoble III. Elle est spécialiste des rapports entre espace et écriture du prémodernisme au modernisme finissant. Sa thèse portait sur Joseph Conrad, Malcolm Lowry et Patrick White. La portée idéologique, politique et esthétique de la représentation de l’espace sont au cœur de ses recherches avec un questionnement de plus en plus incontournable sur la question du discours comme lieu de pouvoir et d’appartenance identitaire et idéologique et sur la nature et fonction du texte littéraire comme lieu de résistance ou même d’ultime étrangeté et d’expérimentation sans cesse renouvelée. Dans cette optique, elle étudie cette question et ses résonances politiques dans le contexte colonial (“Montrer l’événement dans Lord Jim: d’une monstration de l’ordre de la métamorphose à une métamorphose de l’écriture conradienne”, La métamorphose: définition, formes et thèmes, Anne-Marie Tatham & Denis Bonnecase, eds., Editions Gérard Monfort, 2009), concernant la question des rapports homme/femme (“A Gaze, a Voice and a Body of One’s Own: Conrad’s ‘The Return’ and Chéreau’s Gabrielle”, L’époque conradienne, vol.34, 2008) mais aussi plus généralement en ce qui concerne la question d’un positionnement par rapport à une tradition, une culture, un canon, et les valeurs que ces derniers véhiculent (communications sur Under the Volcano et sur ‘Through the Panama’ de Malcolm Lowry lors de journées d’études en 2007 à Lyon 2 et à Ulm). Elle a aussi développé ces recherches dans le domaine postcolonial en s’intéressant notamment de plus près à la représentation de l’espace comme support de cristallisation identitaire, notamment chez Patrick White et chez David Malouf (articles à paraître).

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