Cosmopolitanism and the Literary Imagination by Cyrus R. K. Patell (auth.)

By Cyrus R. K. Patell (auth.)

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Sample text

17 Although Conrad had been a sailor and visited the Congo, in writing Heart of Darkness, he conducted (as Melville did in writing Moby-Dick) subsequent research into his subject. By all accounts, Conrad’s experiences in the Congo had affected him dramatically. ”19 If the Congo was a traumatic experience for Conrad, he dealt with it by confronting it head on and contextualizing it through research that recounted one atrocity after another. ” The reality of Africa seems to outstrip his imagination.

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958), for example, helps us understand the limitations of what Joseph Conrad was able to achieve in his great novella Heart of Darkness. Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North (1969) asks us to rethink the meanings of both Heart of Darkness and Shakespeare’s Othello. I use the word “great” in reference to Heart of Darkness advisedly, not because I shy away from the term, but because I want to use it in a self-conscious and qualified way. One of the tasks facing those of us who conduct teaching and research in the liberal arts in the twenty-first century must be to rethink its assumptions, practices, and purposes.

If I wanted to talk privately to someone it was difficult. Even if we went a little apart, others would be intrigued and immediately come to find out what we were talking about and join in the conversation. Every word I said was overheard, and every move I made was watched. 8 Thesiger encounters many Bedu who display a xenophobic fear of or disdain for Europeans, but those with whom he travels turn out to have a cosmopolitan affinity for conversation that forges bonds between Thesiger and them.

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