Prufrock's Page

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Discarding Darkness

"Recently an African-American graduate student approached me at the end of class, in the middle of the semester, carrying a small paperback edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a text in a course I was teaching on obsession. She placed the book on my desk and said: 'Professor Davis, you keep it. I’m not going to be reading this anymore'...I asked the students: How do we handle the intersection of progressive and regressive themes in a single work? Do we expect writers of the past to have the same values we do now? And so on....[But] I found myself moving toward the decision not to teach Heart of Darkness anymore....Every decade has taught me something about this work, something worth underlining. But my latest learning experience has taught me that this text, which has been mined for so much meaning and inspiration, perhaps needs to be discarded.”

- Lennard J. Davis, professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, cautiously and honestly calls for a rethink of "classic" works.


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