ENGL 494 A: Honors Seminar

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30pm - 4:20pm
MEB 243
Jesse Oak Taylor
Jesse Oak Taylor

Additional Details:

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1898) is one of the most canonized, widely-read, widely-taught works of English literature. It is also one of the most controversial, as hated as it is loved, as often disparaged for its difficulty or decried for its racism as it is celebrated as it is celebrated for its style. It is also one of the most widely adapted, critiqued, re-worked, and re-written works in the language: its plot, its characters, its title and its style resurfacing in numerous other words of fiction, poetry, film, nonfiction prose, video games, and even an opera. In this course, we will read Heart of Darkness alongside both historical documents and scholarly commentary. We will look at how Conrad "adapts" both his own experience in the Congo and prior European writing about Africa such as Henry Morton Stanley’s widely read travel narratives. Then, we will turn to some of the many subsequent adaptations in order to ask: what is it about this book that generates this persistent telling, retelling, and reworking, especially in relation to moments of conflict, violence, and destruction? The "ecology" part of the title comes in both in terms of the adaptive, evolutionary role of storytelling, and also to foreground the degree to which the book itself is an account of extractive industry, wilderness, and the environment—an aspect that many of the subsequent adaptations also address.

Possible readings (in addition to Heart of Darkness itself) include:
Henry Morton Stanley, Through the Dark Continent (19th c. travel narrative, 1878)
Roger Casement, “Congo Report” (Parliamentary Papers, 1904)
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (novel, 1958)
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (novel, 1997)
Zakes Mda, The Heart of Redness (novel, 2003)
Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost (nonfiction/history, 1998)
Tim Butcher, Blood River (nonfiction/travel, 2009)
Yedda Morrison, “Darkness” (poem, 2012)
Spec Ops—The Line (video game, 2012)
Werner Herzog, Fitzcarraldo (film, 1982)
Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now Redux (film, 1979/2001)

Catalog Description: 
Survey of current issues confronting literary critics today, based on revolving themes and topics. Focuses on debates and developments affecting English language and literatures, including questions about: the relationship of culture and history; the effect of emergent technologies on literary study; the rise of interdisciplinary approaches in the humanities.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Other Requirements Met: 
Honors Course
Last updated: 
March 16, 2016 - 12:39pm