Cover image for Envisioning Africa : racism and imperialism in Conrad's Heart of darkness
Envisioning Africa : racism and imperialism in Conrad's Heart of darkness
Firchow, Peter Edgerly, 1937-
Publication Information:
Lexington : University Press of Kentucky, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 258 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Envisioning Africa -- A mere animal in the Congo -- Envisioning Kurtz -- Imperial sham and reality in the Congo -- Unspeakable rites and speakable rights -- E.J. Glave, Captain Rom, and the making of Heart of darkness.
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Material Type
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Item Holds
PR6005.O4 H47645 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



On publication in 1899 Heart of Darkness was hailed as an indictment of European imperialism. In recent years it has been denounced as racist and imperialist. Firchow counters these claims by contrasting the meanings of race and imperialism in Conrad's day to those of our own time.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Countering ill-considered, critical readings of Heart of Darkness as a racist work and an apology for imperialism and colonialism, Firchow (Univ. of Minnesota) argues for an intense scrutiny of Conrad's image of Africa, one produced by his complex imagination. He does so in a literate, objective discussion that returns the novel ("the finest short novel in the English language") to its rightful place as a work of art. Confronting critics like Norman Sherry and Chinua Achebe, Firchow defines race, ethnicity, nationality, and empire as the 19th century understood these terms. He lays out a map of African life as Conrad experienced it and details how Conrad redrew that map. In one brilliant chapter, Firchow carefully shapes the horror of the enigmatic Kurtz and describes how Kurtz survived as part of Marlow's self. Firchow fights hard to prevent the unspeakable rites at the core of the novel from being cannibalized by critics and concludes that the meaning of the novel lies somewhere between angels and fiends. He appends an English translation of Oscar Baumann's description of Stanley Falls station and 43 pages of rich notes. A reading of Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost (CH, Feb'99) and a review of the novel will ease the reader's task. Essential for all academic libraries. R. F. Cayton; emeritus, Marietta College