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Joseph Conrad. Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad (1857-1924). born Józef Teodor Conrad Korzeniowski in Russian occupied Ukraine 1874 joined French merchant marines, later the British 1886 became British citizen 1890 traveled to Congo. Major works:. The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897)

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Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness


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Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

  • born Józef Teodor Conrad Korzeniowski in Russian occupied Ukraine

  • 1874 joined French merchant marines, later the British

  • 1886 became British citizen

  • 1890 traveled to Congo


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Major works:

  • The Nigger of the Narcissus (1897)

  • Lord Jim (1900)

  • Nostromo (1904)

  • The Secret Agent (1907)

  • The Secret Sharer (1909)


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Modernist fiction

  • crisis

  • discontinuity, fragmentation

  • attempts to represent the underlying, multiplicitous truths of consciousness & psyche

  • rejection of outward, unitary, coherent appearance of realist conventions

  • lack of causality

  • insufficiency of language

  • oppositional relations between the individual and the social, alienation

  • antibourgeois

  • first person narrator, often unreliable

  • work by male writers tends to be misogynistic


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Heart of Darkness (1899, 1902)

  • Central questions:

    • What is Conrad saying about European colonization/civilization?

    • How are we to read his text? Should we read it at all?

  • “The title I am thinking of is 'The Heart of Darkness' but the narrative is not gloomy. The criminality of inefficiency and pure selfishness when tackling the civilising work in Africa is a justifiable idea. The subject is of our time distinc[t]ly – though not topically treated." (Collected Letters 2: 139-40).


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The frame:

  • first narrator

  • view of England? (5 vs. 6-7)

  • conquest (7-8)

  • set up of Marlow’s narrative

  • his audience

  • Marlow


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Characterization of Europe/Europeans

  • Belgium, “the sepulchral city” (11, 88)

  • bizarre/absurd behavior (16, 17)

  • the Accountant (21)

  • the Manager (25)

  • The El Dorado Exploring Expedition

  • the Pilgrims (27, 59)


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Characterization of Africa and Africans

  • Chinua Achebe:

    • Africa as “the other world”, antithesis of Europe

    • (lack of) language and Africans (p.49, 83)

    • fear of “kinship” with Africans (59)

    • lack of history (43, 50)

    • Africa as symbolic setting

    • dehumanization of Africans (“it” 20, fragmented 55, “not inhuman” 44)

    • racism underlying the colonial enterprise

    • Kurtz’s madness due to contact with Africa


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Kurtz

  • a “remarkable man” (22)

  • painting (29-30)

  • progress” (30)

  • “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz” (61)

  • his “talk” (58)

  • lacked restraint

  • “the spell […] of the wilderness” (82)

  • vs. the helmsman (62)


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Characterization of women

  • the aunt: “out of touch with the truth” (14)

  • the mistress (75-76)

  • the Intended (59, 92, 95)


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What does the title refer to?

  • Look for mentions of “darkness”:

    • London (3, 96)

    • Ancient Britain (6-7)

    • Africa (9, 40, 43, 84)

    • and Kurtz (60, 85, 86, 87*, 91)

    • and the Intended (93)

  • Choice of “nightmares”? (17, 78, 80, 85, 87)

  • Ending?


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