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Approaches to Teaching Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and "The Secret Sharer"

Editor(s): Hunt Hawkins, Brian W. Shaffer

Pages: xiii & 195 pp.
Published: 2003
ISBN: 9780873529037

"The essays are well chosen, practical, and remarkably personal. They show instructors dealing with a range of students in a variety of course types. A very useful volume that addresses the needs of these widely taught, difficult, seminal works."
Raymond Brebach, Drexel University

The casebound edition of this title is out of print.

Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and "The Secret Sharer" are among the most taught and studied works of twentieth-century British fiction. Noted for their psychological depth and stylistic artistry, the two stories have been celebrated as exemplars of modernism. They have also given rise to controversy. Scholars have debated whether "Heart of Darkness" is a critique of British imperialism or a paean to it. In 1975, Chinua Achebe condemned the novella's author as racist, a charge that has provoked much discussion.

This volume, like others in the MLA series Approaches to Teaching World Literature, is divided into two parts. Part 1, "Materials," gives editions, criticism, and resources available to the instructor of these two complex texts. Part 2, "Approaches," contains essays that treat historical contexts, such as slavery and the ivory trade in the Congo of the 1890s; examine literary issues, such as Conrad's use of the unreliable narrator; discuss the place of gender and race in the stories; tell of students' responses in a variety of public and private institutions; and explore specific pedagogical methods, including the use of films such as Coppola's Apocalypse Now in the classroom.

Table of Contents

Approaches to Teaching Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and "The Secret Sharer"

Part 1: Materials

Hunt Hawkins

"Heart of Darkness"
"The Secret Sharer"

Reference Works
Biographical Sources

Readings for Students and Teachers
Background Studies
Critical Commentary

Audiovisual Aids
The Stories (Film Adaptations)
The Author

Part 2: Approaches
Brian W. Shaffer

Teaching Social Contexts and Literary Issues

Conrad, Slavery, and the African Ivory Trade in the 1890s
Ray Stevens

Conrad and the Adventure Tradition
Andrea White

Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts for Teaching "Heart of Darkness"
John A. McClure

Conrad and Professionalism
Jeffrey J. Williams

Teaching "Heart of Darkness" after New Historicism
Mark A. Eaton

Exploring Characterization in "Heart of Darkness"
Avrom Fleishman

The Role of Marlow's Nellie Audience in "Heart of Darkness"
Brian W. Shaffer

"He Was Not a Bit like Me, Really": Narrators and Audiences in "The Secret Sharer"
Brian Richardson

Creating a Second Self: Transference as Narrative Form in "The Secret Sharer"
Daniel Schwarz

Teaching the Controversies

"Heart of Darkness" and Others
Marianne DeKoven

Women's Caring and Men's Secret Sharing: Constructions of Gender and Sexuality in "Heart of Darkness" and "The Secret Sharer"
Carola M. Kaplan

Why I Teach Conrad and Achebe
Padmini Mongia

Conrad and the N Word: Responding to the Sensitivities and Politics of the Contemporary Classroom
Joseph F. Militello

A Choice of Nightmares: Reading "Heart of Darkness" through Apocalypse Now
Margot Norris

Specific Courses

Teaching "The Secret Sharer" at the United States Naval Academy
Mark D. Larabee

Teaching "Heart of Darkness" in a Western Civilization or Humanities Core Course
William M. Hagen

Teaching "Heart of Darkness" in a Seminar on Modernism and Postmodernism
Philip M. Weinstein

Teaching "Heart of Darkness" across Disciplinary Boundary Lines
Barry Stampfl

Teaching "Heart of Darkness" in a Creative Writing Class
Janet Burroway

Luminous Spaces: Teaching "Heart of Darkness" through Film
Mark Osteen

Works Cited


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