Women in the Heart of Darkness Revision and Reprisal in Contemporary Euro-American Novels of Africa

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Description: Contemporary Euro-American novels set in sub-Saharan Africa derive from a long tradition of Western writing about the continent. While some of their various influences predate the age of imperialism, the genre arguably reached a metaphysical zenith more than one hundred years ago with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness . This short, but formidable, text is in large part responsible for popularizing the trope of Africa as the setting against which the Western male takes the measure of his soul as much as his strength. This thesis examines the legacy of Conrad's work and the difficulties inherent in any attempt to deconstruct the discourse it helped to firmly establish. I particularly demonstrate how beginning in the 1980s a particular strain of Euro-American novels, authored by men and reacting to postcolonial reevaluations of Conrad and other influences, boldly challenged Conrad's legacy by sending for the first time strong, independent Western women to the African continent. But even though such novels now routinely deploy women who see much more while in Africa than their male forerunners--including native Africans and animals once dismissed as mere landscape by Conrad and his adherents--much of the same reductive discourse, identified as problematic in the Conradian paradigm, still prevails in these texts. Ultimately, the presence of such female characters only superficially challenges the convenient mythology propagated by writers like Conrad and long imposed on Africa by the Western male. Conrad's influence, therefore, has proven only symptomatic of a more entrenched Western thinking about Africa that stubbornly adheres in the West to this day.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work