A choice of nightmares: narration and desire in Heart of Darkness

Barnett, Clive (1996). A choice of nightmares: narration and desire in Heart of Darkness. Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 3(3) pp. 277–292.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09663699625568


This paper considers the gendered organisation of narration in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. It is argued that the text fictionalises its audience as an exclusively masculine community of readers, bounded together by shared interests and commitments. The discursive construction of preferred reading positions is critically examined with reference to the mobilisation of discourses of cannibalism and representations of femininity in the text. It is argued that positive evaluations of the text, as a critique of imperialism or a commentary on the human condition, are problematised by consideration of the gender values inscribed in the texture of the narrative.

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