So today’s lecture was about Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, but really it just felt like a lot about the issue of racism between Conrad and Achebe.
Now I’m not complaining. I think it’s an interesting topic, and one I focused my whole Conrad essay on. But, I do wish this lecture had been done before we wrote about Conrad.
Having chosen the topic of “Is Marlowe a Racist?”, I got many more ideas for my essay from this lecture, then the one that was actually about Conrad. Since this one actually focused on my topic, I found a lot of the arguments that Jon brought forward in favour of Achebe’s view were one’s I hadn’t focused on in my essay. My essay was in favour of Conrad, as in that Marlowe is not a racist, so much of lecture I was thinking of rebuttals to what Jon was saying. Although I do not know if I would change my essay, it would have been nice to have these questions and this knowledge at the time of writing.
Which brings me to a larger dilemma. I like the concept of remaking and remodelling. But, as was discussed today, often I find it hard to find such connections. Yes, I can see the relationship between certain books quite easily, Like Antigone versus Antigone’s Claim, but some of these pairings are not as well done as I would have liked. For example, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness can be paired with so many great things, such as Dante’s Inferno or Apocalypse now. Instead it is paired with Wollstonecraft, which although I enjoyed her writing, honestly has the most vague connections. Past the concept of “The Other”, everything is a far stretch. Just as with this week’s pairing of Achebe and Apocalypse Now I can manage to make the connection (Achebe is responding to Conrad, Conrad’s book inspired Apocalypse Now) but why not literally connect those, instead of splitting them up into odd pairings.
As we saw today, the lecture focused so much on Conrad versus Achebe. Why not read them together? I know it would have helped me out.
Now, honestly, I love Arts One and I am truly going to miss it. I even loved this stream (although it wasn’t my first choice), and am glad I ended up in it.
It’s just moments like these I become frustrated when there are some beautiful pairings that could be done, and are ignored. Maybe they are too obvious, or too easy, but like Jon said today: “When a book is too easy, you need to complicate it”.
Ah, what is happening is the artificiality of the two-week pairings of texts and the fact that some texts, like Conrad’s, are not “paired” but “tripled”–there are two works we’re discussing that remake Conrad. The fact that we give essay topics on two books at a time doesn’t always link up with the remakings, due to this fact in part (there were several things that remade Freud too, so we got “off schedule'” with the two-week pairings).
This group has essay topics that deal with two books, and every student writes on those essay topics. It can be done another way too–the other group has essay topics every week, and half the class writes on one book, half on the next book, and it switches back and forth like that. If we had organized this group that way (which is not the norm in this group for the past number of years), you wouldn’t have noticed this! And the two-week groupings of topics doesn’t have to do with remaking/remodeling; as I said, this group has done it that way for numerous years, even when the books don’t really fit together! It’s just a way to have everyone write at the same time rather than switching back and forth (though I think there are benefits and drawbacks to both ways).
So it’s not that we found certain pairings too easy or too hard, it’s that logistically, having them exact would only work if we had one book, then one remake, then another book, then another remake, exactly, all the way through. But this wasn’t how we structured the course; sometimes there is more than one remake, and sometimes the remake is in the same week (Austen’s novel with the film Shaun of the Dead). I think it might be too difficult and artificial to try to keep to the exact schedule that would ensure that all the essay topics were on books where one is a remake of the other! It would leave us less flexibility in what to read.
And the great thing is that we don’t have to be stuck only connecting those two works that are focused on in the essay topics; we can link Conrad to Achebe or Apocalypse Now in later topics. It’s not that this isn’t possible!
Just trying to explain our thinking and dispel any idea that we were trying to complicate things or ignore pairings!
Thanks for explaining.
This makes sense, and I do see the merits of being able to write about past books at later times, instead of being stuck with two. I just wish with some pairings or triples, the links were shown better as I stated above.
Again, I have no issues really with the way the course is done, but sometimes I feel that we miss out on certain things, for example like with this Achebe lecture, I received new info I could have used in my Conrad essay.
But thank you for explaining, and I look forward to connecting Achebe with Conrad some more in this week’s seminars!