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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Huh, our last book proper for Arts One. I’m glad it was such a short and easy read.

Still, if I could describe my experience reading this book in one word it would be: underwhelmed.

I was expecting a lot more from Achebe, especially given his scathing criticism of Conrad. The book itself just felt like a commercial novel. Very middlebrow entertainment . The novel taken in tandem with Heart of Darkness and other works feels a bit more worthwhile, but then there are other works that are primarily canonical endeavours (contingent upon a canon or asking questions of said canon) that managed to be more promising stand-alone works. It was a good story, a good portrait of another society, a nice subtle critique against colonialism, a humanist vindication, but until the very last part it doesn’t feel thematically cogent.

A dilemma I have been grappling with: Is moral imposition imperialism? I believe certain cultural practices can be immoral; examples within this book being the status of women and children in Ibo society, ritual sacrifices, the abandonment of twins, etc. But post-colonial scholars are apt to attack this as moral imposition of one society’s values onto another, a sort of attempt at imperialistic homogenisation? The debate first came to my attention when I was reading about Female Circumcision/Female Genital Mutilation (depending what side of the debate you’re on). This argument bothers me on several levels, but then, I can’t help but think of the Prime Directive. Thoughts?

UPDATE: 1:15 AM, attempting to write my essay that was due Monday, scouring the text, having my mind continually blown. There is so much in this novella. It is so dense. I feel like I could spend my entire life studying it and still not be able to pierce its impenetrable heart of darkness.

Conrad’s portrayal of race is really very interesting. I don’t know whether or not I would call it racist. It might be, but well meaning, if that even makes any sense. The specific description of the natives as distinct from Europeans tends to make me hyper-aware of racial difference, and at least for me, that dehumanizes both groups of people (I will admit, that a few benign descriptions me profoundly uncomfortable, “woolly head” was one).

Achebe’s criticism feels a little bit unthought out for me; trying to shoot at an easy target without really thinking it out. I think Marlow’s distaste and alienation upon his return to Europe.

A weird thing I wa picking up on in this text is an almost primordial association with sound, voice, and language. Sound is often an act of creation, the entire tale is framed as a onversation. I think even more than the light/darkness dichotomy which is really played with in this text, the sound/silence one is more prevalent. Ultimately though, silence in the text proves futile.

Anyone played Spec Ops: The Line? Really good adapation of Heart of Darkness. In fact there’s a lot of videogame adaptations of Heart of Darkness. Wonder what it is about this story that resonates particularly within the videogame medium?

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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