Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The issues of race and imperialism woven into the narrative of the Heart of Darkness?

The issues of race and imperialism woven into the narrative of the Heart of Darkness?

“We all come from Africa,” said the one African-American within the class, whom I’ll call Henry, calmly pertaining to the supposition among most anthropologists that human life originated in Sub-Saharan Africa . What Henry was saying was that there are not any racial hierarchies among peoples—that we’re all “savages.” Shapiro smiled. it had been not, I thought, precisely the answer he had been trying to find , but it had been an honest answer. Then he was off again. “Are you natural?” he roared at a woman sitting near his end of the seminar table. “What are the constraints for you? What are the rivets? Why are you here getting civilized, reading Lit Hum?” it had been the top of the tutorial year, and therefore the mood had grown agitated, burdened, portentous. In short, we were reading Conrad , the ultimate author in Columbia’s Literature Humanities (or Lit Hum) course, one among the 2 famous “great books” courses that have long been required of all Columbia College undergraduates. Both Lit Hum and therefore the other course, Contemporary Civilization, are dedicated to the much ridiculed “narrative” of Western culture , the list of classics, which, within the case of Lit Hum, begins with Homer and ends, chronologically speaking, with Woolf . i used to be spending the year reading an equivalent books and sitting in on the Lit Hum classes, which were taught entirely in sections; there have been no lectures. At the top of the year, the individual instructors were allotted every week for a free choice.

Some teachers chose works by Dostoyevski or Mann or Gide or Borges. Shapiro, a Shakespeare scholar from the Department of English and literary study (his book “Shakespeare and therefore the Jews” are going to be published by Columbia University Press in January), chose Conrad. The terms of Shapiro’s rhetorical questions—savagery, civilization, constraints, rivets—were drawn from Conrad’s great novella of colonial depredation, “Heart of Darkness,” and therefore the students, most of them freshmen, were electrified.
Almost 100 years old, and familiar to generations of readers, Conrad’s little book has lost none of its power to amaze and appall: it remains, in many places, an important start line for discussions of modernism, imperialism, the hypocrisies and glories of the West, and therefore the ambiguities of “civilization.” Critics by the dozen have subjected it to symbolic, mythological, and psychoanalytic interpretation; T. S. Eliot used a line from it as an epigraph for “The Hollow Men,” and Hemingway and Faulkner were much impressed by it, as were Welles and Francis Ford Coppola, who employed it because the floor plan for his despairing epic of usa citizens in Vietnam, “Apocalypse Now.”

heart of darkness; meg 03 british novel

In recent years, however, Conrad—and particularly “Heart of Darkness”—has fallen under a cloud of suspicion within the academy. within the curious language of the tribe, the book has become “a site of contestation.” in any case , Conrad offered a nineteenth-century European’s view of Africans as primitive. He attacked Belgian imperialism and within the same breath appeared to praise British variety. In 1975, the distinguished Nigerian novelist and essayist Chinua Achebe assailed “Heart of Darkness” as racist and involved its elimination from the canon of Western classics. And recently Edward W. Said, one among the foremost famous critics and students at Columbia today, has been raising hostile and undermining questions on it. Certainly Said is not any breaker of canons. But if Conrad were somehow discredited, one could hardly imagine a more successful challenge to what the tutorial left has repeatedly deplored because the “hegemonic discourse” of the classic Western texts. there's also the inescapable question of justice to Conrad himself.
Written during a little quite two months, the last of 1898 and therefore the first of 1899, “Heart of Darkness” is both the story of a journey and a sort of morbid fairy tale. Marlow, Conrad’s narrator and familiar friend , a British merchant seaman of the eighteen-nineties, travels up the Congo within the service of a rapacious Belgian trading company, hoping to retrieve the company’s brilliant representative and ivory trader, Mr. Kurtz, who has mysteriously grown silent. the good Mr. Kurtz! In Africa, everyone gossips about him, envies him, and, with rare exception, loathes him.
The flower of European civilization (“all Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz”), exemplar of sunshine and compassion, journalist, artist, humanist, Kurtz has gone way upriver and then "> sometimes well into the jungle, abandoning himself to certain . . . practices. Rifle in hand, he has set himself up as god or devil in ascendancy over the Africans. Conrad is notoriously vague about what Kurtz actually does, but if you said “kills some people, has sex with others, steals all the ivory,” you'd not, I believe, be far wrong. In Kurtz, the alleged benevolence of colonialism has flowered into criminality. Marlow’s voyage from Europe to Africa then upriver to Kurtz’s Inner Station may be a revelation of the squalors and disasters of the colonial “mission”; it's also, in Marlow’s mind, a journey back to the start of creation, when nature reigned exuberant and unrestrained, and a visit figuratively down also , through the amount of the self to repressed and unlawful desires. At death’s door, Marlow and Kurtz find one another .
Rereading a piece of literature is usually a shock, an encounter with an earlier self that has been revised, and that i found that i used to be initially discomforted, as I had not been within the past, by the famous manner—the magnificent, alarmed, and (there is not any other word) throbbing excitement of Conrad’s laboriously mastered English. Conrad was born in czarist-occupied Poland; though he heard English spoken as a boy (and his father translated Shakespeare), it had been his third language, and his prose, now and then, betrays the propensity for top intellectual melodrama and rhymed abstraction (“the fascination of the abomination”) characteristic of his second language, French. Oh, inexorable, unutterable, unspeakable! the good British critic F. R. Leavis, who loved Conrad, ridiculed such sentences as “It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention.” The sound, Leavis thought, was an overwrought, thrilled embrace of strangeness.

Out of sight of their countrymen back home, who still cloak the colonial mission within the language of Christian charity and improvement, the “pilgrims” became rapacious and cruel. The cannibals eating hippo meat practice restraint; the Europeans don't . That was the purpose of Shapiro’s taunting initial sally: “savagery” is inherent altogether folks , including the foremost “civilized,” for we live, consistent with Conrad, during a brief interlude between innumerable centuries of darkness and therefore the darkness yet to return . Only the rivets, desperately needed to repair Marlow’s pathetic steamboat, offer stability—the rivets and therefore the refore the ship itself and the codes of seamanship and duty are all that hold life together during a time of ethical anarchy. Marlow, meeting Kurtz eventually , despises him for letting go—and at an equivalent time, with breathtaking ambivalence, admires him for going all the thanks to rock bottom of his soul and discovering there, at the purpose of death, a judgment of his own life. it's perhaps the foremost famous death scene written since Shakespeare.
Much dispute and occasional merriment have long attended the question of what, exactly, Kurtz means by the melodramatic exclamation “The horror!” But surely one among the items he means is his long revelling in “abominations”—is own internal collapse. Shapiro’s opening questions found out a reading of the novella that interrogated the Western culture of which Kurtz is that the supreme representative and of which the scholars , in their youthful way, were representatives also .