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Lecture 15

English 2307E - Lecture 15.docx

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English 2307E
Krista Lysack

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English 2307E Thursday March 13 Lecture 15 Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ Reading 1: As a frame narrative that explores the fragmented nature of the self (the Freudian psyche) • The self isn’t whole – it is divided and in conflict with itself • We come to know Kurtz gradually – it is mediated through other people’s testimony about him • Frame narrative – we never have direct access to Kurtz (we can never get inside his mind) • The manager at the central station always complimented Kurtz as someone who seemed to be too smart to be in a company • Kurtz has found a community with the Indigenous peoples • Marlow on Kurtz (p. 1965 at the bottom) o Marlow is intrigued with Kurtz and is able to extract from the accountant that Kurtz was a “first-class agent”, a “remarkable person”, and in charge of a trading post o This produces a sense that Kurtz is remarkable and charismatic, but we can’t put our finger on him (he remains evasive and slippery) o He is thought to be talented, brilliant, and everything that European culture has to offer (“a specimen of the West”) • Kurtz (2005) o We finally meet Kurtz who is running a trading post o He has a relationship with the local people, he is bringing in ivory and has set himself up as the leader (shows his lack of restraint, his psyche is in disarray)  He has the local people pay homage to him o Physically, he looks diminished  Marlow thought he would see a more physically impressive specimen, but Kurtz looks emaciated and sickly o Kurtz doesn’t say very much (also disappointing) – he is supposed to be “the best of everything that European culture has to offer”, and one would think he would have insight on his job, his community… o In his famous words, “the horror, the horror!” he says everything you need to know about what it means to live in the twentieth century  We could say that this is the id, the irrational part of the self that is breaking through and saying something truthful about the way that life really is  The truth of the statement… • He could be talking about the ivory business (the animal costs, how it robs resources, how people are harmed) • Kurtz has discovered that at the heart of everything (the ‘Heart of Darkness’) is corruption • An existential realization, what it means to live in the modern world (to live alone)  Though it is a horrible truth, it is a brave truth: every person is basically alone in the world and left to fend in a fight with the different fractions of your fragmented self  The result of this realization is that you go crazy (Kurtz has gone mad) • Atavism: A reversion to an earlier type (the opposite of evolution) • Kurtz begins as the best of everything Europe could make, and reverts to something almost animalistic (driven by his drives and desires) o What does it matter that he’s a tyrant? Life is horrible anyway. • Kurtz’ madness stands as a warning to Marlow  Though Kurtz is ‘losing it’, it is a brave assertion he is making • He refuses to lie to himself and others about this existential th and modern way to think about the world • Early 20 century literature is often brutally honest (occurs during the period of war) Reading 2a: The imperial self and the relational nature of identity: a critique of the European drive to know and master (the self in the historical moment of ‘Heart of Darkness’) • There was colonization going on during this time in Africa o There were colonies set up under European rule • Almost every western European country was interested in setting up colonies around the world o Africa is still working through European colonization today • Kurtz is less of an “everyman” or universal type, and more of an imperial self (subjectivity shaped through particular historical forces) • “Scramble for Africa” – Europeans were looking for resources in Africa (ivory, rubber) o When Conrad wrote ‘Heart of Darkness’, he knew that Belgium was trying to get rubber from out of Africa • The Relational Nature of Identity o Europeans going to Africa wanted to set up clear boundaries, making sure that English became the language of the land, asserting themselves as European o There are two sets of identities: Europeans and everyone else o Europeans found ways to set up their racial others as opposites  By setting up Africa as a “dark spot on the map” or the other, this was a way to find oneself o It worked out in some ways for the Europeans because it
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