Saturday, May 20, 2006

Teaching Racism

Lennard J. Davis has an awesome article in The Chronicle about the dilemma of teaching Josef Conrad's The Heart of Darkness (1902).

Conrad's literary value and his commendably anti imperialist impulses have for decades been overshadowed by his consistently racist approach to character depiction and definition. There is some debate over whether his use of racism was ironic rather than considered, but students, especially students of color, have in my experience been offended+intimidated+appalled by Conrad's provocative racist outlook--for instance, his casual use of the word "nigger," long after the word was considered impolite in British civil society.

Prof. Davis makes several interesting points and the learning-teaching history he associates with The Heart of Darkness alone makes it a compelling academic artefact.

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