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Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness: first published in serialised form in 1899, then as a book in 1902 Victorianism: strict conventions.

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Presentation on theme: "Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness: first published in serialised form in 1899, then as a book in 1902 Victorianism: strict conventions."— Presentation transcript:

1 Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness: first published in serialised form in 1899, then as a book in 1902 Victorianism: strict conventions and focus on “polite” society Modernism: sought to explode old conventions and invent new literary forms to convey human experience more fully

2 Modernism in Heart of Darkness Multifaceted narrative Manipulations of language, plot, narrative voice, point of view… – “But Marlow was not typical […] and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.” Self-questioning + political/ideological questioning Does not simply reflect its historical context, but actively helps to define it

3 Heart of Darkness: themes Colonialism, crisis of civilization Madness, crisis of the individual Truth, crisis of language  physical + psychological journey

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5 British mission: – Racial segregation – “Britishness” based on culture + ancestry French mission: – assimilation policy: “civilizing” Africans – “Frenchness” based on culture Belgian mission: – “civilizing” Africans – “immatriculation” Indirect rule vs. direct rule Company rule “Civilizing” missions

6 Quotes “sepulchral city” (H.D.) "utter solitude without a policeman” (H.D.) Chinua Achebe “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” 'it is clearly not part of Conrad's purpose to confer language on the "rudimentary souls" of Africa'. “She got in one day and kicked up a row..... She talked like a fury to Kurtz for an hour” (H. D.)

7 Quotes 'She put out her arms as if after a retreating figure... I shall see her..., a tragic and familiar Shade, resembling in this gesture another one, tragic also, and bedecked with powerless charms, stretching bare brown arms over the glitter of the infernal stream, the stream of darkness' (H.D.)

8 The Congo River

9 1482: European explorers discovered the Congo River 1877: Length of Congo River (4700 km) discovered Impassable between Matadi and Kinshasa (in HD: Company Station and Central Station) European presence in the Congo

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11 Most brutal colonial rule Congo as a personal possession of King Leopold Brutal and extensive exploitation Became an official colony in 1908 Independence in 1960 The Belgian “civilizing” mission

12 1885, the Congress of Berlin: “Congo Free State” ruled by King Leopold II of Belgium One of the furthermost stations, Stanley Falls, was the likely inspiration for Kurtz's Inner Station in HD Belgian atrocities in the Congo (as in HD) European presence in the Congo

13 Ivory trade The word ‘ivory’ rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I’ve never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion. (H;D) Belgian atrocities in the Congo (as in HD)

14 Chinua Achebe, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness“ (1975) Achebe describes Conrad as a racist, Heart of Darkness as "a novel which celebrates dehumanisation, which depersonalises a portion of the human race." BUT: – Conrad IS NOT Marlow (author vs. narrator; framed narrative) – HD shows the brutality of colonialism – Degradation of the WHITE man – Criticizes the “civilization” of Europe Post-colonial readings of HD

15 “Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world”, the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where a man’s vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality.” (Chinua Achebe) … but whose bestiality is it really??? HD questions the binary opposition civilised versus uncivilised Framed narrative: narrator behind a narrator Who is the “Other” in HD? Post-colonial readings of HD

16 Outer station: the accountant, indifferent to the suffering around him (lack of humanity) Central station: the manager, adherence to superficial civilised life (self-control) Inner station: Kurtz, great but evil (wilderness)  In Freudian terms: superego, ego, id Crisis of the individual: HD as a psychological journey 16

17 Apocalipse Narratives about the end of the world, or the end of human civilization From the Greek, “to un-veil” Violent, grotesque, struggle good-evil… Responds to and produces crisis The “strange blight” that falls upon the pastoral scene in “A Fable for Tomorrow” is an example of apocalyptic rhetoric Warning + evil material threat + catastrophic scenario In Heart of Darkness: imminent end of Western civilization

18 De Saussure (1916): signifier – signified Reader’s distance from Kurz: two narrators, time and space distance Disintegration of meaning: meaning is obscured by the complexity and imprecision of language Impossibility of knowing the truth From Kurtz as myth to his “reality” “The horror! The horror!” Crisis of language: HD and truth 18

19 “My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel- it is, before all, to make you see” _Joseph Conrad, Preface to The Nigger of the Narcisuss Crisis of language: HD and truth 19


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