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Research Report by Jeremy Cowan

Page history last edited by jeremy_cowan@... 13 years, 11 months ago

Research Report: A Tome of Heart of Darkness

 

By Jeremy Cowan, Heart of Darkness Project Team

 

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. 4th ed. New York: Norton & Company, & Inc., 2005.

 

1. Abstract:

This is the text that is serving as the basis for our adaptation. In this edition of Conrad’s original critique of the Congo Free State over fifty essays and other sources are provided to supplement a reader’s understanding of the historical context as well as the motivations and the reception of the novella.

 

2. Description:

Divided into three parts, this most recent Norton Critical Edition of Heart of Darkness aims to fully submerge those interested in the text under an overflowing reserve of supplementary texts to the novella. While readers who are only interested in reading Conrad’s text will find it unabridged within the tome those who desire to have a better understanding of the circumstances as well as the reception of the novella will not be disappointed. The titles of the three sections, in order, are as follows: “The Text of Heart of Darkness”, “Backgrounds and Contexts”, and “Criticism”.

            The opening section, “The Text of Heart of Darkness” supplements the original text by providing a “Textual Appendix” after the actual text. “Textual Appendix” is further subdivided into a section on “Textual History and Editing Principles” and “Textual Variants”. These subsections provide insight into the editing of the different variations of the text into a single, uniform text and detail the variations between the different editions of the texts respectively.

            “Backgrounds and Contexts”, the second section, is subdivided into four sections: “Imperialism and the Congo”, “Nineteenth-Century Attitudes Toward Race”, “Conrad in the Congo”, and “The Author on Art and Literature”. “Imperialism and the Congo” contains nine essays on the practices of Belgium within the Congo Free State under Leopold II (outlining in vivid detail the atrocities committed) and a set of images (a map, several paintings and photographs of the Congo and its natives, and a picture of Conrad). “Nineteenth-Century Attitudes Toward Race” contains six essays that detail various European schools of thought and their attitudes toward the impact of “race” on the character of entire peoples (including essays by Hegel, Darwin, and Benjamin Kidd). “Conrad in the Congo” contains three articles: correspondence letters from Conrad while he was in the Congo, Conrad’s “Congo Diary”, and an introduction to “The Congo Diary” which attempts to reason and put into context the content of said diary. “The Author on Art and Literature” contains six articles written by Conrad on various topics of art and literature in order to partly supplement Heart of Darkness by providing additional insight into the various critiques and topics discussed in that text and partly to provide further insight into Conrad’s analysis of what he saw in the Congo.

            “Criticism” is subdivided into three categories: “Contemporary Responses”, “Essays in Criticism”, and “Heart of Darkness” and “Apocalypse Now”. “Contemporary Responses” contains nine responses to Heart of Darkness from Conrad’s contemporaries, five of which are reviews of the book but the remaining four articles come from very influential writers of the time (Henry James, E.M. Forster, Ford Maddox Ford, and Virginia Wolf). “Essays in Criticism” contains an additional fifteen essays that provide post-contemporary analysis of Heart of Darkness, analyzing the text through schools of thought that emerged well after the publication of the novella, providing a guide to modern readings of the text. “Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now” provides three articles comparing Heart of Darkness with its most infamous interpretation, exploring how the atrocities described in the text are re-envisioned through events that are within recent memory.

 

3. Commentary:

            This tome on the prolificacy of the Heart of Darkness provides a wealth of opportunity for our group. In addition to providing a hard-copy of the text that we have chosen, its inclusion not only of traditional analyses of the text but of such a variety of analyses from different schools of thought, ranging in time from contemporary responses to responses published over 100 years after Heart of Darkness’ initial publishing, provides a wealth of knowledge. Both fortunately and unfortunately this type of analysis is not indicative of what our group is attempting to achieve: a digital representation of the text based on nontraditional analysis of the text that itself can be analyzed, correlated, and compared with the original text. Fortunately we are provided with such a large pool of traditional analysis that we can perhaps gain some insight as to what themes we may try to decrypt using nontraditional analytical methods. Unfortunately there is no clear way to use such a surplus of knowledge to effectively supplement our analysis of the text, use of these supplemental texts will most likely be limited to guiding us in what aspects of the text we would like to analyze further unless we come across a more useful way of utilizing this resource.

            Of the supplemental materials provided in the tome, the images may be the most valuable in our analysis of the text. The inclusion of such materials in the book hints at an untapped literary potential as the included images are examples of different types of visual analysis in relation to the text but no clear correlation between them is outlined, it is left to the reader to imagine the relation of these resources to the text. The most obvious use of any of these images is that the included map may help us in designing a map of the control of the Company for the adaptation portion of our project. However, there may yet be someway to digitally analyze the provided images (or perhaps to combine or rearrange them) so as to produce a new interpretation of the source materials for the text. Ideally, if this is at all possible, images designed by Conrad or images based on his work would be best to allocate for this task.

            Second in importance to providing the text of Heart of Darkness itself this tome provides us with sufficient background information on the context of Heart of Darkness to be able to investigate further the descriptions given in the novella. From government corruption, racism, vertical monopolization, and devastation of the environment, a wide range of themes is given some context. Without said context, such themes would be impossible to manage given how wide their scope is.

 

4. Resources for Further Study:

Casement, Rodger. The Eyes of Another Race. University College Dublin Press: Dublin (2004).

Dorman, Marcus. A Journal of Tour in the Congo Free State. Bibliobazaar: Charleston,

SC (2007).

Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold's Ghost. Pan Macmillan: London (1998).

Twain, Mark. King Leopold’s Soliloquy. International Publishers: New York (1991).

Ward, Herbert. A Voice From the Congo." New York Times 26 MAR 1911: BR171.

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