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Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Impressionistic Literature. Principles of Impressionism. Use of thick, short strokes of bright color - No fine detail needed Color is not mixed Little to no use of true black Plein -Air Painting and Natural Light. Impressionism in literature.

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Joseph conrad s heart of darkness

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Impressionistic Literature

Principles of impressionism
Principles of Impressionism

Use of thick, short strokes of bright color - No fine detail needed

Color is not mixed

Little to no use of true black

Plein-Air Painting and Natural Light

Impressionism in literature
Impressionismin literature

Writing that seeks to capture fleeting impressions of characters, settings, and events, depicted subjectively as they appear through the filter of the writer’s moods and personal perceptions.

Narration in impressionistic literature
Narration in Impressionistic Literature

Impressionism is at its core a response to scientific positivism. It saw realism, a child of science, as flawed in its oversimplification of reality.

In joseph conrad s heart of darkness
in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

…Impressionists, whether in the literary or visual arts, sought to represent the interaction between human consciousness and the objects of that consciousness.

In joseph conrad s heart of darkness1
in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

The assortments of commas in impressionist literature has been linked to the short brush-strokes of the impressionist painter.

Impressionistic narrative techniques
ImpressionisticNarrative Techniques


Intentionally Limited Point of View

In Media Res

Primitive Perspective

Impressionist techniques in heart of darkness
Impressionist Techniques in Heart of Darkness

The Darkness

The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky - seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness-

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Impressionist techniques in heart of darkness1
Impressionist Techniques in Heart of Darkness

The Fog

But there was the fact facing me--the fact dazzling, to be seen, like the foam on the depths of the sea, like a ripple on an unfathomable enigma, a mystery greater--when I thought of it-- than the curious, inexplicable note of desperate grief in this savage clamour that had swept by us on the river-bank, behind the blind whiteness of the fog.-

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

In joseph conrad s heart of darkness2
in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

Impressionism differs from realism greatly with the fact that culture's effect on the individual is only one of the many parts that create the experience. Realism puts priority on the culture and the individual is a small part of culture.

Narration in impressionist art
Narration in Impressionist Art

Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one, hence this label that was given us, by the way because of me. I had sent a thing done in Le Havre, from my window, sun in the mist and a few masts of boats sticking up in the foreground....They asked me for a title for the catalogue, it couldn't really be taken for a view of Le Havre, and I said: 'Put Impression.'-

Claude Monet - On Impression, Sunrise

Realism taking the form of impressionism max liebermann munich beer garden
Realism Taking the Form of ImpressionismMax Liebermann - Munich Beer Garden

People of all ages and from all social classes have come together: the bourgeois man with his cigar and sideburns, Bavarian infantrymen, men in top hats, bowlers or bare-headed, a nurse with a child, old women wearing bonnets, young ones with cheeky hats, children in their Sunday best... there is no trace of exuberance, scarcely a smile to be seen, no laughter. Rays of light filter through the foliage and appear - typically impressionistic - as patches on the people and the ground.

Ines Janet Engelmann, Impressionism: 50 Paintings You Should Know.

Edgar degas l absinthe in the cafe
Edgar Degas - L'Absinthe (in the cafe)

  • What a slut. - George Moore, On L'Absinthe

  • Degas primarily focuses attention on the details of the face and expressions of the subject.

    • What particular expressions do these seemingly "expression-less" faces exhibit?

    • What impression is given?

Narration in impressionist architecture
Narration in Impressionist Architecture

Sisley - Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne

Modern, newly constructed bridges were often the focal point for compositions by Sisley and other Impressionists. The motif of the cast-iron and suspension bridge here provides a sweeping diagonal thrust across this riverbank scene along the Seine painted in summer 1872.

Scientific impressionism
Scientific "Impressionism"

Georges Seurat –

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

Soft light, as only Impressionism could create, flows through the trees, surrounds the two couples, the naked woman and the one undressing to bathe, the dark male figures. What is portrayed is an extraordinarily French, extraordinarily lingering situation, full of innocence, supreme ease, unobtrusive enjoyment of life, and carefree seriousness.

Repetition in impressionism monet house of parliament
Repetition in Impressionism Monet-House of Parliament

Conrad and impressionism
Conrad and Impressionism

Conrad is trying to capture a reality that is very different from realism.

Conrad uses Achronology/an intentionally limited point of view/In Medias Res/Primitive Perception

Conrad’s use of darkness, black, or night –the absence of light

Fog as distortion, obscuring clear view therefore forcing the reader to interpret. “What is behind the fog?”

Narration in impressionist art1
Narration in Impressionist Art

  • Landscape

  • Realism

    • Narrator and point-of-view

    • The “lack of expression” of Degas’s painting

  • Architecture

  • Scientific “Impressionism”

  • Repetition


Peters, John G. Conrad & Impressionism. Port Chester, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2001. p 27.