English 127, Spring 2006

Paper Assignment 1

Write a 5-page, thesis-driven paper that explores how well (or how poorly) one or two of the critics/theorists we have read fit the primary text The Heart of Darkness.  In other words, I am asking you to apply the secondary material we've read to Conrad's novel, and evaluate how well it works. 

For example, you might try to find how THoD "imposes constraints upon its interpretation," as Said suggests, or how it is "burdened with its occasion."  You might ask how Ghandi's presentation of "Orientalism" helps us read THoD more carefully.  You might ask if Brantlinger's essay or Miller's essay provides a better way to understand the ambiguities and contradictions of Conrad's style.  You might ask if we can profitably read THoD as the product of "culture as an uneven, incomplete production of meaning and value, often composed of incommensurable demands and practices, produced in the act of social survival"(Bhabha).

Take heart!  This is easier than it might sound.  You did exactly this in class on Monday when you used Achebe and Miller to develop your own interpretation of racism in THoD.  You may find yourself agreeing with your secondary material, and finding examples of why it's right in the text.  You may find yourself disagreeing with the secondary material, and proving it wrong with quotes from the text.  You might agree with it in part, but want to modify the argument, or extend it, or limit it in some way.  Any of these would be fine.  The bottom line here is that you are engaging intellectually with someone who is intellectually engaged with The Heart of Darkness.

Note:  Since we've already outlined papers on Achebe, Miller, and THoD, I would ask that you think twice before using those same two critics with the novel.  If you do want to write about both of them, be sure your paper advances itself beyond the outlines produced in class.

Papers are due by class time on Friday, February 17.  Please email me your paper as a Word document, or as an RTF file if you don't have Word.  We won't have class on the day the paper is due.

Wednesday's class, February 15, will be a peer review and feedback day.  Bring a draft of your paper to share with your classmates and get some feedback.  If you don't have a finished draft, at least bring an outline.