Heart of Darkness

The first part of the reading response should be a paragraph giving an overall summary of the reading. The rest (the majority of the response) is a personal intellectual record of thoughts generated by the reading. Feel free to take your ideas to the edge of possibility, to link them to material from other courses. For example, you might relate your reading to a movie. You might explore internal contradictions in a writer’s argument or two opposing views and your own reaction to those views. Develop arguments. Ask questions. When you write, focus on one or two themes or topics. Don’ts: Except for the first section, don’t merely summarize readings or lectures.

Watch the John Green video on imperialism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alJaltUmrGo

and the video-lecture by Adam Hochschild on the Belgian Congo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLyZGTwmcRA&t=2917s

then read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness https://www.gutenberg.org/files/219/219-h/219-h.htm, which was written when King Leopold of Belgium virtually owned the colony, then called the Free State of Congo.

!!!**You might reflect on Conrad’s attitude toward the natives and the much-discussed question of what you think he meant when Kurtz cries “the horror, the horror” at the end of the book.**!!!

A possible aid:

Joseph Conrad, an author of Heart of Darkness, was born in Poland and lived in Belgium and Great Britain. A sailor by trade, he traveled the world, and he paid extraordinary attention to what he saw and experienced. He is considered one of the best novelists who have ever written in English. While it is tempting to dismiss him as a racist because of the attitudes and vocabulary in some of his writing, he, above most people of his time, had a far-reaching notion of European imperialism’s racism and abuses. (That last sentence expresses my opinion; it is not the opinion of every academic.)

Rather than create my own lecture on the Belgian Congo, the setting of Heart of Darkness, I have posted a video lecture by Adam Hochschild, who does it far better than I can. Hochschild is a renowned writer who teaches journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. Though he is not an academic historian (that is, he does not have a Ph.D. in history), he is respected by academics. His book King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1998) focuses on how King Leopold II of Belgium managed to gain control of the Congo and on the atrocities that were committed there during his reign. A reviewer in The Guardian noted that the book “brought howls of rage from Belgium’s aging colonials and some professional [Belgian] historians even as it has climbed the country’s best-seller lists.” 1

1. https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/1999/may/13/features11.g22. For more information on Heart of Darkness  check on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_of_Darkness

What Is Ethical Judgment?

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