chapter  3
12 Pages

Some Millennial Footnotes on Heart of Darkness


A reading of Heart of Darkness shortly after the close of the twentieth century and the turn of the millennium cannot evade a certain apocalyptic or eschatological tone. It is not only the temporal-cultural context of the reading, but the text itself that sets up an apocalyptic frame of reading, staking out its own range of reference-“all of Europe,” all of the “dark continent,” all of Western civilization-as no less than total. The spectrum of critical responses to this claim through the century can be read symptomatically as a record of a cultural itinerary, shifting from the initial acquiescence of allegorical reading to selfconscious deconstruction and finally to passionate ideological engagement with what the apocalyptic framework seems to exclude or, at the very least, to occlude. But this in itself is not sufficient to account for the prophetic power of the text and for its apparently increasing relevance on the threshold of the twenty-first century.