Other Hearts of Darkness

This three-hour seminar discusses the global re-writings of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, relating the novel to newer materials from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Why is Conrad’s novella echoed in so many texts from the global south, including in works by authors that trenchantly dismiss Conrad’s politics? In what ways are the novels that echo Conrad’s text similar to, or different from, Heart of Darkness? How do newer thematic concerns feature in postcolonial works that Conrad’s novella? As we answer these questions, we will discuss the ways Conrad’s novella is repurposed to depict various themes and to use Conrad as an ally against imperialism and other forms of oppression, including the discrimination of gender and racial minorities in post-colonial societies. While considering the formal properties of the texts, we will put these novels in broader historical and social contexts. The seminar will explore especially those works that can be used in high-school settings, paying attention to ways we can make students appreciate the diverse perspectives on Conrad’s work. Fictional works examined include Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Paradise, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, David Dabydeen’s The Intended, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s A Grain of Wheat, and Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Killjoy. We will also discuss essays on Conrad by Chinua Achebe and Wilson Harris, putting them against the background of these writers’ fictions that echo of Conrad. By the end of the seminar the participants should be able to: explore non-western texts to use in classes that use Heart of Darkness to explain various themes; explain Heart of Darkness's echoes in different post-colonial novels; examine the place of race, gender, and sexuality in the postcolonial re-writings of Heart of Darkness; relate echoes of Heart of Darkness in various texts to different forms of cultural exchanges depicted in individual works of art.