E 316K - Heart of Darkness

E 316K - Heart of Darkness - Do you see him? Do you see the...

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Heart of Darkness “Do you see him? Do you see the story? Do you see anything? The Impenetrability of Whiteness in
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Historical Background Rumbling beginnings in the peripheries of the British Empire of what would eventually turn into full-blown revolutions and calls for decolonization and independence. As in the poems we’ve already read, major challenges to the assumed benefits of colonization and imperialism, critiques of the human exploitation at home and abroad resulting from the policies of unfettered capitalism. Ideas and Paradigm Shifts Darwin: evolution in direct contrast and contention to Creation/God/Purpose Marx: undermines inherent individuality; “self” is created by social, economic, and political factors --- social determinism Feminism (Wollstonecraft, Browning, Rosetti, Suffrage Movement) challenges traditional gender roles and calls into question the very legitimacy of the family unit central to English socio-economic theory and practice. Freud: psychological model of existence/life suggests the outward manifestation is controlled by unconscious motivations (contemporary with Conrad; gained notoriety after Heart of Darkness was published) Determinism and Cultural Evolutionism: notion that human begins are not inherently morally independent or have the ability to exert free will/responsibility, but are controlled by genetic, social, or psychological factors. Cultural evolutionism which mapped earlier notions that cultural traits were inherited (environmental aptitude, technological progress, social complexity, intelligence) onto Darwinian natural selection and evolution giving birth to Social Darwinism. Effect is that the “grand narratives” and social assumptions that held Victorian England together – the belief in human perfectability through evolution and technological progress, strong sense of Divine ordination and religious faith, commitment to benevolence and altruism as offsets to materialism and alienation, the belief that reality-as-history could be accurately represented, the assumption of a stable, knowable, unitary self, etc. – all gave way to questions of their very validity. The novel turns inward into the psychological development of characters, the inability of accessing Truth or discerning reality, and the fracturing of society and of the individual subject into units of perception and existential loneliness.
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Conrad Born Jozef Teodor Konrad Nalescz Korzeniowski in Poland in 1857, spent his formative years in Siberia with his father, a Polish nationalist exiled by Russian royalists who died in 1869 leaving Conrad in the care of a maternal uncle. He turned to the sea at the age of fifteen, serving on French and English ships (on which he mastered both languages), and gained his master’s certificate in 1886, the year he was naturalized as a British subject. In 1890, he captained a vessel up the Congo River in deplorable conditions, an experience that haunted him for his entire life and ultimately led
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E 316K - Heart of Darkness - Do you see him? Do you see the...

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