Heart of Darkness

This book starts and ends as a story told by a man named Marlow. History is basically about imperialism, civilization, and a man with a great reputation named Kurtz. I might not have been too careful in reading but it seems like a confusing book. It has so many things going on. I am not so sure what Joseph Conrad is trying to imply through this story yet. But one thing that I do not like about this book is about how Europeans break into Africa, take over their land saying that they are helping them to be “civilized”. Were Africans actually getting helped by the Europeans? It just seems like a joke. They were just treated as slaves fulfilling their desires to expand their territories. What is the point of shouting for equality of all human beings while oppressing others? I am just not so fond of this book since the story just automatically makes me think about Korean history. I don’t want to bring this up all the time but I just hate the feeling that I get when it comes to colonialism, imperialism,,, etc. Well… I have never experienced WW2, Japanese Colonization, or the Korean War, but I have learned since young age through stories that my grandparents told or through history classes in Korea. Korea may have been a developed country, but I know how “Western cultures” are taken as a superior being in my country. I don’t want to be too detailed or personal. But overall, I didn’t like this book, it is too disturbing and disgusting.


I really enjoyed Heart of Darkness, but I’m fairly sure I understood almost none of it. (Lecture tends to be good at clarifying things for me though, so I’m not too worried.)

The first thing I noticed was the chunks of text and lack of paragraph separation, I will admit. I grew used to it as I kept reading, but it doesn’t look very approachable. Also, Conrad’s language is very descriptive, to the point where I would call it flowery. I don’t think this detracts from the understanding of the book, but it’s worth commenting on.

Also, his tone is very conversational. Obviously the whole thing is told in the form of a story, but it’s gratifying as a reader to pick up a book and feel like the author (and, by extension, the characters) are speaking to you directly. He has certain expressions that are just unbelievably gorgeous, and I flagged some pages simply because the words he used made me go back and read the passage again and again. For instance:

“One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same.” (69-70) This is just so eloquently worded … and it applies to a lot of situations. The minor details all blend together and in the long run, the world/sea/life is fairly uniform.

“… the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would best like to hear …” (72) This is just really accurate, so I thought I’d point it out.

“We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember, because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign – and no memories.” (107) This deals with a few concepts we’ve touched on already in Arts One. It talks about memories as well as the concept of suppressing those memories, intentionally or otherwise, and not leaving a sign (silencing?) past events. Wow, this text is remaking/remodelling previous texts.

A closing word: I intended to flag all the places where ‘darkness’ comes up so I could accurately point out all the things it could mean, but I failed pretty early on and gave up. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to go through it again, because I think the different meanings of ‘darkness’ are definitely applicable. Darkness = desolation, negativity, skin colour, death, the power of the devil, etc.

I hate feeling like I’m missing the point, as I often do with that ‘story about a story’ kind of book. Oh well. All will become clear soon.

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Grimm is about right

To start:

“Consider a monologue describing in sequence all of an individual’s recollections. It would sound as a meaningless cacophony even to the narrator.” (Trouillot 15)

As I was reading Heart of Darkness, I came to realize that the whole book can be described (sort of) with this quote from Silencing the Past. I say “sort of” because I don’t think that Heart of Darkness is meaningless or cacophonous; just hard to understand. I think I can say that because I’ve read it twice (third read in progress) and I’m still not too sure of it.

(I also have to admit that I didn’t flag the quote while reading Silencing the Past, and I had to search for it on Amazon. I guess that “events otherwise significant to the life trajectory were not known to the individual at the time of the occurrence” (15)).

I remember Jon saying in lecture for Black Skin/White Masks that if Fanon handed that in as an Arts One essay, he’d probably get a B-. Well, if Conrad handed in Heart of Darkness as a creative writing project in, say, high school, he probably wouldn’t get a very good grade because it’s so strongly stream-of-consciousness. (Then again, I’m sort of a lowballer when it comes to marks…)

The narration also struck me as very Frankensteinian (Shelleyan?) – guy on a boat meets another guy, second guy tells long and scary story. Although I do think Mary Shelley uses the narrative device in a way that’s easier to understand than Conrad. Hannah said something like this about Foucault before, but it’s just hard to understand what’s going on when paragraphs span whole pages and then some. I can’t remember if Shelley had the same ridiculously long paragraphs going on – but if she did, she must have done something differently.

Final thought:

“Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool.” (75)

One of my most distinct memories from English 10 is of Madam Defarge, knitting (not that I ever actually saw her knitting as opposed to just reading about it). When I read this part in Heart of Darkness, I asked myself (and wrote down) – when are fictional knitters ever good news? It’s not just Madame Defarge. You have the Fates in Percy Jackson, who knit huge blue socks (although in the myth, the Fates are weavers). See?

Now that I think about it, though, I guess there are some fictional knitters who end up being all right. For example, one of my favourite stories as a child was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, which is about a girl whose brothers are turned into swans, and to turn them back, she has to knit them sweaters from thorns. (I know Wikipedia says that they’re shirts of stinging nettle, but how I remember it is close enough, I guess. I actually seem to remember it as the girl having to make the sweaters using thorns as knitting needles…but whatever.) There’s another very similar fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, if you’re interested.

(Since some of you apologize for your blog post titles, sorry for mine.)

I’m not sure how much longer I can stand the constant vacillation between warm/cold and sunny/rainy. Thanks for reading, everyone.


Who run the world? Girls. (just kidding.)

Pre-reading, I thought:

  • another gender-related text?
  • a short text? I haven’t seen this in awhile.
  • a short text WITH footnotes? cool, less reading, could prove to be beneficial when writing that essay…


I felt that even though de Beauvoir advocates for different things than the last text we read, Wollstonecraft, there were many things that they had in common, like the use of Adam and Eve and how the story is essentially a call for action for women. I think I would have enjoyed Wollstonecraft more if these two texts were grouped together instead of Paine. While I thought Wollstonecraft was a bit too wordy for my liking, as her use of adjectives was a bit overkill, de Beauvoir gets to the point a lot quicker, which is probably why this reading was so much shorter.

When I reached the section where de Beauvoir talks about Freud, I was slightly disappointed because I thought that we were done with him, not that I dislike Freud or anything, but I’ve had my fill of Freud-talk for the year. This section would have been a really good essay in response to the set of essay questions on Freud.

A couple ideologies were brought up in this text, the Subject and the Other and the castration complex. The latter I wasn’t completely sold on, maybe because it was reminiscent of Freud, which creeps me out a bit. The Subject and the Other was intriguing. Remembering back to when we read Fanon and discussed “the Other” in that text and the mentioning of the minority groups in this text , I had never previously seen a woman being compared to as a slave.

So I hope this hybrid blog post with the mention of Fanon, Freud, Wollstonecraft and de Beauvoir wasn’t complete crap and will somewhat compensate for my many weeks of missed posts (although I know it won’t, sorry!).


(The title was the first thing that came to my mind… headaches and creativity don’t mix.)

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Beauvoir x Reworking x Symbol of

Hi everyone. Sorry for missing the seminar on Friday, got my wisdom teeth pulled (still a little bruised today).

Just finished up The Second Sex. I found the way that Beauvoir reworks psychoanalysis really insightful. Even the form/style which she uses to rework and discuss it is great. She presents certain theories of psychoanalysis and doesn’t just attack them straight away, she discusses them, points out some of their flaws (in a much more amiable way than Paine) and works in her own ideas. I mean, her deconstruction of penis envy is really, really solid:

“The little boy obtains from his penis a living experience that makes it an object of pride to him, but this pride does not necessarily imply a corresponding humiliation for his sisters” (43)

And later she writes

“If the little girl feels penis envy it is only as the symbol of privileges enjoyed by boys” (44)

She’s reverse engineering Freud. Instead of the outside world being symbolic of sexual desires/fantasy/etc, sexual desires are themselves symbolic of an outside world. It helps to find a place for the social in Freud’s psychoanalytic model.

Beauvoir’s mention of the “purposiveness of existence” (46) also provide a really provocative broadening of Freudian psychoanalysis. “If we do not go back to the source, man appears to be the battleground of compulsions and prohibitions that alike are devoid of meaning and incidental,” Beauvoir explains (46). This is something that bugged me about Freud’s work: everything come back to desire – but desire for what? I mean this in the sense that, while sex is the foundation for Freud’s model, it can’t possibly be just the pleasure of sex in itself which drives all of our action. Beauvoir suggests that there’s something more, that there is meaning to be found beyond the “battleground of compulsions and prohibitions.”


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The never ending cycle of evil

As my title addresses, I do not like this book. Sadly like a nihilistic I find the sardonic vibe of irony that every week I am becoming weaker to the ideals of feminism and gender. The ideas increase because of De Beauvoir’s ideas match mind with her heavily leftist views. The pain that I have encountered is severe, from reading this text. As mentioned in my blog from last week, I cannot stand gender, and it makes me quite sad that I have to deal with this barrage. Unlike wollenstonecraft of the week prior de Beauvoir is shorter but dense. Making my hours upon hours of reading that much more difficult. As the electronic music blares and the movies play around me I deal with the idea of equality that stimulates me. Even I have a deep and burning hatred of the book, there are ideas that I do agree with. But I do ask the people who read this blog, where is the book that disgusts masculinity, and the plight of men? where is my book, talking about how men are not just chauvinistic, but were deep and complex creatures that have the mentality to only do what is needed? Until that book comes out and is critically acclaimed by the masses, I will not accept a book of feminists as an acceptable topic.

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litererrors 2014-03-10 12:39:01

I am so ecstatic about this text that I can come up with neither a good title nor a good opening. This woman is seriously amazing, and I think I like this mostly because it’s not aggressive feminism but instead a push for equality. Her tone is readable and her language isn’t too flowery, and she refers to other philosophers we’ve read (and hated), particularly Freud. In fact, she dismisses Freud’s Electra complex as ‘nonsense’ on page 43, so she must know what she’s talking about.

“Some say that, having been created after Adam, she is evidently a secondary being; others say on the contrary that Adam was only a rough draft and that God succeeded in producing the human being in perfection when He created Eve.” (lvi-lvii) This is a nice way to put the creation dilemma, and she goes on to say that we must get rid of the concepts of superiority and inferiority. Great.

“It is not the lack of the penis that causes this complex, but rather woman’s total situation; if the little girl feels penis envy it is only as the symbol of privileges enjoyed by boys. The place the father holds in the family, the universal predominance of males, her own education – everything confirms her in her belief in masculine superiority.” (44) I like this way of justifying her disbelief in penis envy. I think penis envy is just a simplified way of explaining that because men have traditionally held power, some women wish that they were men (or at least more like men, so they could have power as well). This makes a lot of sense and it’s completely true.

“All psychoanalysts systematically reject the idea of choice and the correlated concept of value, and therein lies the intrinsic weakness of the system.” (46) This dismisses traditional psychoanalysis in an educational way and points out the fatal flaw with a system that is widely believed to explain many of life’s phenomena.

To conclude, I just really love this, and I feel like it’s more of an ‘everyone is equal and all superiority/inferiority should be thrown out the window. As Simone de Beauvoir says, “The fact is that every concrete human being is always a singular, separate individual.” (And we shouldn’t just be part of some complex or some phenomenon or some idea; we should just be people.)

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Golden Globes

Yes, a short text.

One time in grade eleven I almost read The Second Sex. Then I decided against it, partially because I didn’t want to read a huge book (yet I still borrowed it – I know), and also because I looked up the Parshley translation and found that it was widely criticized. Attempting to read the original was not an option either, for a few different reasons (some of those reasons produced in hindsight). We’re reading it now, though, and despite any misgivings, it is very compelling.

From the first page, de Beauvoir manages to nail down (in my estimation) the paradox of both deifying and demonizing femininity (which Jill talked about last lecture). There’s this bit:

“Is this attribute [femininity] something secreted by the ovaries?” (xli)

It’s just too similar to this, down to the word choice.

Also, since this text is so short, I’m rereading it now and picking up on things I didn’t notice before, like this:

“A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male.” (xliii)

Of course not, because “[i]f a woman writes about herself, she’s a narcissist. If a man does the same, he’s describing the human condition“. (Okay, so I read that first on Tumblr, but Emily Gould says it herself – she expects her audience to be people on that site.) The idea of writing about men is just writing about people. A few days ago, my sister and I were watching TV and in reference to The Mentalist, she asked why so many shows were like that. I presumed she meant, and I answered, that there are a lot of shows featuring a quirky main male character with a supporting cast. I mean, honestly (if you use “quirky” loosely): How I Met your Mother. Community (sort of, sort of). House. Sherlock. The Big Bang Theory (also sort of). Need I go on? Those are just the shows that I’ve watched appreciable portions of (figured that I should keep the complaining about shows I don’t watch to a minimum). There are more. Granted, there are also a lot of shows that feature a main female character with a supporting cast, but like it’s been said so many times before (and, forewarning, so much more elegantly), generally women are okay with reading/watching entertainment about men, but generally men are not as okay with reading/watching entertainment about women.

De Beauvoir also says this:

“The parallel drawn by Bebel between women and the proleteriat is valid in that neither ever formed a minority or a separate collective group of mankind.” (xlvii)

To comment on the idea that “women have never formed a separate collective group of mankind” – I feel like I’ve been trying to find a way to express that and de Beauvoir just went and did it.

I took way too long to write this. Thanks for reading everyone.

[Edit for clarification about the femininity paradox.]

[Second edit: here is a response to the article about boys in young adult literature. I read it before I read the original article, so I thought I should probably refer to it.]

Wollstonecraft Me

Wollstonecraft’s argument was really not what I was expecting. It’s basically the “legalize, regulate, and tax” argument but applied to women’s right. I mean her argument is basically: Women are naturally inferior, so don’t make us more inferior else we won’t be able to be good mothers and wives; besides, women are going to try and ‘educate’ themselves illictly anyway so we might as well have control over it. The entire argument is an appeal to men as well; Wollstonecraft seems rather contempteous of other women.At least on first glance. The thing is her writing style changes so drastically, and sometimes her opinion, it’s hard to get a handle on her (it would be in poor taste to make an ironic ‘WIMMIN M I RITE FELLAS?” joke here, wouldn’t it?). Sometimes she gets so righteously indignant, and other times almost apologetic and pandering, and I wonder if her whole deal with women staying naturally inferior could just be for placating people to what otherwise would be an extremely contentious argument.

Examining the writing style is really interesting too, in the way in which she mixes the masculine and feminine rhetoric of the day. While she says she’s going to ignore the language of sensibility (empathy, delicacy of sense, etc.) and use simple, rational rhetoric her style does get a little bit flowery (and dare I say, overwrought) at times. I can understand why she would want to avoid being associated with sensibility though, because that was one of the main arguments against women being able to think rationally (women have keener nerves ergo women feel more keenly ergo women are overcome by emotion and unable to think rationally). She vociferously decries sensuality, sexuality, sex, the body, and love, and that’s very interesting to observe: a women as an entity then was basically her body and her sexuality (and still today sometimes, sadly) and Wollstonecraft almost desperately tries to discard the flesh, to transcend the body to find rational thought. Love terrifies her because it makes people dependent, and for Wollstonecraft represents the real fear that women ARE dependent (which is one of the things that irks me about some feminist thought: to quote the great Poet Laureautes of our generation, The Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the love?”).

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