‘Journey Up The River’
Well, somewhat of a difficult blog topic this week. Unfortunately I am insanely busy and still haven’t completely decided what approach I am going to use for my critical approaches paper.
As far as applying a critical approach to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, I seem to favor a historical/biographical approach. Basically what this focuses on is the authors; what kind of lives did they lead, what was going on in their life at the time their work was written, what was happening in the world around them at the time? Personally, before I read any text or watch a film that is assigned for any English class I research the author and the era in which the work was written; I find that it generally allows me to gain a better insight on what the text may have been trying to portray. However, I do see the problem with doing this; I go into the text with perhaps more knowledge than necessary, I may have created somewhat of a bias or perception of the text that was not meant to be there.
In our assigned book, “Texts and Contexts,” the traditional view of history and biography is explained… “The traditional view of history and biography assumes that there are “facts” that we can know, with some degree of certainty, and as readers we simply need to gather them (if we can), and fit them together (if we can), and cautiously relate them to literary works (if we can)” (p.145). I love the repetitive use of “if we can,” which is so true….what we know depends on what we have access too. The reason that I favor the Biographical/Historical Approach is that I believe that it mirrors what may have been happening in society at the time. I enjoy reading a text from this perspective because it allows me to gain insight on a specific period through the author’s point of view.
When applying this approach to ‘Heart of Darkness,’ I mostly focused on the impact of colonialism. Through research I found that Conrad drew from his own experiences in the Congo. The impact of colonial experiences in Congo was devastating to the Natives resulting in the mistreatment of the natives of Congo, and the harsh exploitation of them and their resources. This exploitation is supported by historical facts. For a quick example, “Leopold II declared the Congo Free State his personal property in 1892, legally permitting the Belgians to take what rubber they wished from the area without having to trade with the African natives. This caused a rise in atrocities perpetrated by the Belgian traders”(Wikipedia). Now I know, I know, it’s from Wikipedia, but it is a fact and I was just trying to give you a quick example. It is interesting to me that no matter how much we look at this as inhumane and unacceptable; it still happens in societies today. This leads into another reason why I favour a historical approach; it allows us to examine how much things have or haven’t changed over time.
So that was just a quick intro in the historical/biographical approach and a brief overview of how I applied it to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. I know we all have a lot of reading to do in these blogs so I will keep it fairly short and sweet for everyone!
Please take 5 minutes to watch this video; it’s a presentation of images depicting the impact of colonialism.
Just a couple quick questions to end on; What do you think are some possible pros and cons of a historical/biographical approach? Do you think that focusing on the author or the historical context in which the work was written could possibly take away from the text itself?
Thank you, and I look forward to reading everyone else’s blogs this week!