The Issue of Racism in Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness Jan Micha Hoekstra

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The Issue of Racism in Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness  by  Jan Micha Hoekstra

The Issue of Racism in Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness by Jan Micha Hoekstra
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Seminar paper from the year 2007 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, University of Münster (Englisches Seminar), course: Empire Writing, language: English, abstract: With European fiction set against theMoreSeminar paper from the year 2007 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, University of Münster (Englisches Seminar), course: Empire Writing, language: English, abstract: With European fiction set against the background of colonisation the question whether racist attitudes are conveyed in the depiction of the colonised is always an issue.

Considering the fact that the concept of colonialism is closely related to the ideology of racism and that Eurocentrism became widespread in the late 19th century, it is not surprising that such ideas are not only mirrored but rather preached in the works of many colonial writers of that time. Consequently, there are whole libraries of books in which it is rather obvious and, therefore, undeniable that not only an imperialist ideology but plain racism is advocated through the respective works.However, this cannot be said about Joseph Conrad who is widely admired for his stylistic skills and, what’s more, for his fair and balanced depiction of the colonised.

Nevertheless, his novel Heart of Darkness, arguably one of the most important short novels in the English language, though generally considered an example of Conrad’s anti-imperialist attitude, caused some controversy among experts.There are prominent voices which joined forces in opposition against Conrad and challenged his non-racist image. Most notably, the distinguished Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe strongly disagreed with the general perception of Heart of Darkness and accused Conrad of racism in his Chancellor’s Lecture An Image of Africa given at the University of Massachusetts in 1975.

Needless to say, Achebe’s indictment triggered several reactions both in favour and in opposition to his view. Thus, some supported Achebe and his allegations against Conrad whereas many others strongly opposed Achebe and raised their voice in defence of Conrad. What’s more, some of Conrad’s biographical information also helps to shed light on the issue.Thus, to answer the question whether a racist ideology is conveyed in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, first of all, the actual novel has to be closely examined.

Further, the critics’ reactions – both positive and negative – have to be analysed and weighed against each other. Finally, the author’s personal background provides relevant information which also has to be taken into account.



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