The concept of mastery straddles a largely unexamined seam in contemporary thought dividing admirable self-control from a reprehensible will to power. Although Joseph Conrad has traditionally been viewed as an admirable master; master mariner, storyteller, and writer; his reputation has been linked in recent years to the negative masteries of racism, imperialism, and patriarchy. In this book, Geoffrey Galt Harpham delves not only into Conrad's literary work and reputation but also into the concept of mastery. The text outlines a psychology of composition that embraces Conrad's personal as well as historical circumstances. This volume represents both a methodological innovation in the practice of literary criticism and a contribution to the understanding of how masters, and canons based on them, are made.