AP Literature and Composition
13 October 2014 Formal Presentation Handout
Topic: Read Edward Said article “Two Visions in Heart of Darkness.” How does Said react to Achebe’s arguments? How might his article change the way we understand this text?
Chinua Achebe wrote “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’” in which he concludes that Joseph Conrad is a “thoroughgoing racist.” Achebe gives critical evidence to support his premise.
1) Depicting the encounter with his first black man: “a certain enormous buck nigger encountered in Haiti fixed my conception of blind, furious, unreasoning rage, as manifested in the human animal to the end of my day.”
2) Describes when he meets his first Englishmen: “[his] calves exposed to the public gaze…dazzled the beholder by the splendor of their marble like condition and their rich tone of young ivory…The light of a headlong…illuminated his face…triumphant eyes…glance of kindly curiosity and a friendly gleam of big, sound, shiny teeth…his white calves twinkled sturdily” When comparing the first two quotes the description of his encounter with his first black man seems explicit. It also makes the black man seem inferior.
3) Brief Descriptiongiven: “black figure stood up, strode on long black legs, waving long black arms...” As Achebe says “as though we might expect a black figure striding along on black legs to ave white arms!” Edward Said’s response, “Two Visions in Heart of Darkness,” was published in 1993. Said defends Joseph Conrad by presenting two arguments. The first justifying history itself and showing its importance. The second alerts us to Conrad’s inability to see an alternative to imperialism but allowing his readers to r-imagine the future. He defends Conrad in this argument.
1) “One argument allows the old imperial enterprise full scope to play itself out conventiona1ly, to render the world as official European or Western imperialism saw it, and to consolidate itself after World War Two. Westerners may have physically left their old colonies in Africa and Asia, but they retained them not only as markets but as locales on the ideological map over which they continued to rule morally and intellectually. "Show me the Zulu Tolstoy," as one American intellectual has recently put it. The assertive sovereign inclusiveness of this argument courses through the words of those who speak today for the West and for what the West did, as well as for wha1 the rest of the world is, was, and may be. The assertions of this discourse exclude what has been represented as "lost" by arguing that the colonial world was in some ways ontologically speaking lost to begin with, irredeemable, irrecusably inferior. Moreover, it focuses not on what was shared in the colonial experience, bur on what must never be shared, namely the authority and rectitude that come with greater power and development Rhetorically, its terms arc the organization of political passions, to borrow from Julien Benda's critique of modern intellectuals, terms which, he was~ sensible enough to know, lead inevitably to mass slaughter, and if not to literal mass slaughter then certainly to rhetorical slaughter.”
This first argument argues that although