Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Studying Heart of darkness

A few weeks ago I posted some comments on Heart of Darkness, in response to Chinua Achebe's myopic nonsense on the subject. Looking at my list of referrers, it's become quite a popular route into this site. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the most popular search term bringing people here, but Heart of darkness is now coming up fast on the rails.

What disappoints me is that most of the searches are "heart of darkness" + racism or 'racism in heart of darkness' or some variant. Hardly anyone seems to be studying this book as a character study of the darkness of the human soul, which is what it is about. Everyone has been sidetracked onto this far less rewarding and less interesting question of racism. I think it is a great discredit to a fine piece of literature that it has now apparently been reduced to the status of cultural studies text on racism.

Is this how universities are teaching this text? As a grammar of racism? If so, I think that's pathetic. Racism is something well worth studying - the way to defeat anything is to understand it - but to reduce the complexities of this text (and, indeed, to ascribe to it twenty-first century sensibilities of which the author could not possibly have been cognisant)is puerile.

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