All posts by metsie

Said’s “Darkness”

Said spends a good amount of time highlighting the ways imperialism has an effect on culture, and conversely, culture on imperialism. However, he begins an interesting argument about Conrad’s novel on page 29, when he states:

“Conrad’s genius allowed him to realize that the ever-present darkness could be colonized or illuminated – Heart of Darkness is full of references to the mission civilisatrice, to benevolent as well as cruel schemes to bring light to the dark places and the peoples of this world by acts of will and deployments of power – but that it also had to be acknowledged as independent.” (Said 29-30)

Conrad’s choice of the word “darkness” encompasses the physical color of the people, as well as the evils of imperialism encroaching on culture. Said utilizes Conrad’s text to illuminate the independence of the darkness as a power contrary to imperialism. It is not simply something to be conquered by imperialism, but a cultural entity that works throughout imperialist advancement while remaining separate from itself. Said insists, through analysis of Conrad, that while imperialism may progress, it does not mean the simultaneous retreat of darkness. Rather. it emphasizes the darkness of imperialism disguised as “mission civilisatrice“, and in opposition, the light that comes from the “darkness” as a culture.

Potentiality in Joyce

The idea of potentiality is one Joyce uses to his advantage in his novel, but not in the typical manner one would expect. In the beginning of his argument, Lukacs describes the human phenomena of potentiality, which he deems to be “richer than actual life”, and that “innumerable possibilities for man’s development development are imaginable” (1220). However, this seemingly positive possibility for the new also presents a flip side, as there is an [oscillation] between melancholy and fascination” within the subjectivity of man. Lukacs continues: “When the world declines to realize these possibilities, this melancholy becones tinged with contempt” (1220). This concept is illustrated within Dubliners, as Joyce realizes the potentiality of the characters in to such a negative degree that he leaves the reader to assume they will indeed live up to the most negative and melancholic potentiality. He, however, furthermore achieves this melancholic attitude toward the future with the abrupt endings to the stories of the lives he describes. Joyce takes Lukacs’ idea to the extreme: there is no resolution, just potentiality.

From A Defence of Poetry

“Sorrow, terror, anguish, despair itself are often the chosen expressions of an approximation in the highest good. Our sympathy in tragic fiction depends on this principle; tragedy delights by affording a shadow of the pleasure which exists in pain. This is the source alslo of the melancholy which is inseparable from the sweetest melody. The pleasure that is in sorrow is sweeter than the pleasure of pleasure itself … The exertions of Locke, Hume, Gibbon, Voltaire, Rousseau, and their disciples, in favour of opressed and deluded humanity, are entitled to the gratitude of mankind.”


Shelley, Percy B. “A Defence of Poetry.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. By David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. 359. Print.