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Heart of Darkness


Heart of Darkness


Since its publication in 1899, Heart of Darkness has been one of the most widely read books written in English.  It has also been one of the most analyzed.  Scores of literary critics, ranging from feminists to Marxists to New Critics, have all tried to construct their own meanings from the pages of the book.

The novel does seem to invite a variety of interpretations.  Its narrator even claims the meaning of the story "was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine."

Perhaps, as you have read Heart of Darkness, you too have felt a sense of "brooding gloom," and have felt that the meaning of the story is very hazy.  In this critical paper, you will be exploring various approaches to the novel that may shed light on this elusive masterpiece.

Project Task
1.  You are to become familiar with one of the following types of criticism.  Each is a different way of looking at literary works.  After you have familiarized yourself with the different types, select one that you find interesting on which to base your paper. 
       The following sites are possibilities for looking at several kinds of criticism.  You may use them as sources.

        Psychoanalytical Criticism or Freudian Criticism


        Post-Colonial Criticism

        Reader Response Criticism 


       Feminist Criticism


        Marxist Criticism


In addition to the above sources, you may  use the Gale Database on the library website.  You may also use other web sources, in addition to critical books that you may find in the reference section of the library.


The first part of your paper will be an explanation of your chosen type of criticism with appropriate parenthetical documentation.  Explain your type of criticism fully and how critics of that persuasion look at literature.

2.  You are then to select appropriate passages from the novel Heart of Darkness  that might fit well with your critical slant and use your critical approach to interpret these passages.  Ask yourself the question, "How would this type of critic read this passage?  What particular slant would he or she put on the text, and what would he or she find important or significant, what less important or less significant?"  You are to create a critical commentary on the novel from your critical slant using these passages for support.

      You may also use the following passages.  They were part of a college research project on this book and might serve well to support your critical slant.  But you will probably prefer to seek out your own passages, depending on your type of criticism.

       Passage One

       Passage Two

       Passage Three

       Passage Four

3.  Finally, you are to comment on the strengths and/or weaknesses of reading literature in general, and Heart of Darkness in particular, through the lens of this critical approach.

Project Requirements

  • Your paper must be 3-5 pages typed, double-spaced.
    • You must consult at least three sources including the novel itself.
      • You must have a title page, a paper, and a works cited page.
        • You must include appropriate parenthetical documentation.
          • You must use MLA format.




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