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Modernism and Joseph Conrad. The Scream ( 1893) Edvard Munch . What do we know about Modernism? . Joseph Conrad’s context. Wars political uprisings, colonial rule and unrest The ebb and flow of economic fortunes ALL

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modernism and joseph conrad
Modernism and Joseph Conrad
  • The Scream (1893)
  • Edvard Munch
joseph conrad s context
Joseph Conrad’s context
  • Wars
  • political uprisings,
  • colonial rule and unrest
  • The ebb and flow of economic fortunes



3 December, 1857-3 August 1924

other influences
Other influences
  • Cultural e.g. Women’s Rights
  • Increased industrialism and mechanisation
  • Scientific and technological advances
  • Changing political climate
  • Literary, philosophical, and artistic movements of this period directly relate to the literature that appeared.
cultural issues
Cultural Issues
  • England moving away from an agrarian economy and toward an industrial economy.
  • Industrial Revolution brought with it a number of problems e.g. poor infrastructure, housing, sanitation, transportation, environmental pollution, poor working conditions, low wages, long working hours.
women s rights
Women’s Rights

Along with England’s increased industrialisation and mechanisation, women’s inequality was a prominent issue.

  • Women’s property rights
  • Women in the workplace
  • Women’s suffrage hotly debated
  • Women in the work place crucial aspect
  • Ideally women were expected to marry and become selfless caregivers to children and husband.
heart of darkness and the role of women in society
Heart of Darkness and the role of women in society.
  • The novella explores the question of a woman’s place in society in various ways:
  • The women are ‘out of it’—they inhabit a place in society away from the harsh realities of the man’s world.
  • This represents the traditional 19th century view of women occupying and providing a sanctified home, removed from the corrupting influence of the world of men.
the nature of 19 th century western civilisation
The nature of 19th century Western civilisation

Europeans had long held that their view of the world was superior—a view based on transcendent truths and sanctioned by God.

  • But this idea came into question—throughout the 19th century, traditionally held truths came under scrutiny
  • The western worldview would be challenged on all fronts at breakneck speed.
the nature of 19 th century western civilisation1
The nature of 19th century Western civilisation

Charles Lyell


Lyell observed geological formations that challenged the then standard view, based on theological teachings that the earth was about 4,000 years old.

His Principals of Geology (1830-33) would revolutionise scientific enquiry, in a reassessment of the earth’s age.

the nature of 19 th century western civilisation2
The nature of 19th century Western civilisation

Charles Darwin


Darwin’s scientific work and mission aboard The Beagle would prove even more revolutionary.

Darwin’s discoveries in the Galapagos Islands grew into his theory of natural selection.

Darwin published his findings in The Origin of the Species (1859).

The survival of the fittest’--Term invented by Herbert Spencer in Principles of Biology (1864) to describe Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection of living species.

the nature of 19 th century western civilisation3
The nature of 19th century Western civilisation
  • The discovery of such phenomena as non-Euclidian geometry and relativist physics argued for indeterminacy of thing—a stark contrast to the traditionally held view of a world of transcendent truths and certainty.
  • Behavior of lines with a common perpendicular in each of the three types of geometry

19th Century, scientific activity and discovery—science made more progress during this century than it had during the previous 20 centuries combined.

Significant scientific discoveries included:

  • Michael Faraday (1797-1867) English physicist and chemist (field theory).
  • Charles Lyell (1797-1875) Scottish geologist (geology)
  • John Dalton (1766-1844) English chemist (theory of atoms).
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1892) English Naturalist (revolutionised natural sciences).
  • Pasteur (1822-1895) French chemist (germ theory)

The discoveries resulted in a challenge to traditionally held truths and scientific knowledge.

  • Science had achieved a place that had previously been reserved for religion, and confidence in science’s ability to provide certainty increased.
conrad and scientific positivsm
Conrad and Scientific Positivsm
  • In Heart of Darkness Conrad questions the ability of science and facts to provide certainty when Marlow depicts the Belgian doctor who measures the heads of his patients as a fool.
  • By the end of the 19th century, religion was in decline.
  • Reasons:
  • Science had dismantled the certainties of previous ages.
  • Darwinism had shaken people’s faith in the Book of Genesis or in the Divine Creator.
  • Churches were ceasing to perform a therapeutic role in helping individuals to cope with life’s crises.
the nature of 19 th century western civilisation4
The nature of 19th century Western civilisation
  • Increased contact with non-western world through the opening of Japan in 1854 and new Imperialism brought from Westerners into greater contact with non-Western society, philosophy, culture and art.
  • This contact provided viable alternatives to traditional Western culture and society.
summary of 19 th century world view
Summary of 19th Century world view
  • Westerners had viewed their way of looking at the world as the only one possible—evolving from Christian theology and based in absolute truths.
  • Consequently, they saw Western culture’s advanced technology and civilisation as validating their world view, with ALL other ways of looking at the world appearing INFERIOR, BACKWARD and WRONG.
consequences and effects of western world views
Consequences and effects of Western world views
  • The challenges to 19th century western views brought into question fundamental assumptions about the nature of the world (Darwin) and the nature of the universe (Lyell).
  • Consequently, the moorings of Western civilisation began to erode, and the absolute truths came under scrutiny.
early modernism and heart of darkness
Early Modernism and Heart of Darkness
  • Conrad resisted being associated with any particular literary movement because he felt that it restricted and compartmentalised a writer’s work.
  • Modernism as a literary movement was the most important to his work.
  • Modernism is known for formal experimentation.
  • Authors had previously experimented with some experimental techniques, but the Modernist period was the first in which experimentation took such a prominent position.
  • Modernist authors were simply representing in form what they perceived in fact, that is, the fragmented world they encountered.
  • A more profound reason lies at the heart of the changes, i.e. the FORMAL CHANGES MIRRORED THE SOCIAL CHANGES.
early modernism and heart of darkness1
Early Modernism and Heart of Darkness
  • Conrad is known primarily as a Modernist writer.
  • He may in fact be the first Modernist.
  • His works evidence both the Modernist experimentation with form and the Modernist world view.
  • Conrad’s formal experimentation with multiple narrators in Heart of Darkness to relate the tale and the alienation, solitude and epistemological uncertainty that his characters experience—speaks of Conrad’s Modernist world view
  • Conrad’s characters consistently try to find meaning and order in human existence—merely a means to stave off chaos, anarchy* and nihilism.

*political and social disorder due to the absence of governmental control:

total and absolute destructiveness, esp. toward the world at large and including oneself:

modernism what it is not
Modernism –what it is not.

modernism is a cultural movement which rebelled against Victorian mores

Victoria culture emphasised nationalism and cultural absolutism (a political theory holding that all power should be vested in one ruler or other authority)

Belief a single way of looking at the world, and in absolute and clear-cut dichotomies between right and wrong, good and bad, hero and villain.

View of the world as being governed by God’s will—each person and thing in this world had a specific use.

Viewed the world as neatly divided between ‘civilised’ and ‘savage’ peoples.

According to the Victorians the the ‘civilised’ were those from industrialised nations, cash-based economies, Protestant Christian traditions, and patriarchal societies, the ‘savage’ were those from agrarian or hunter-gatherer tribes, barter-based economies, ‘pagans’ or ‘totemistic’ traditions, and matriarchal (or at least ‘unmanly’ societies.).

modernism and fiction
Modernism and fiction
  • Modernism is known for formal experimentation—in fiction, this experimentation took a number of forms:
  • multiple realities of uncertainty
  • Narrative frame
  • achronological narrators
  • Multiple narrators
  • Stream-of-consciousness narration/flashback/flash-forward
  • Narrative—fragmented/limited/discontinuous
  • Inconclusive endings/opened ended/ironic/multilayered
  • Unreliable narrators
  • New—previously forbidden subjects
  • unsettle readers’ expectations; shock out of complacency