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Hearts of Darkness

Hearts of Darkness: White Women Write Race

Jane Marcus
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Hearts of Darkness
    Book Description:

    In this book, one of modernism's most insightful critics, Jane Marcus, examines the writings of novelists such as Virginia Woolf, Nancy Cunard, Mulk Raj Anand, and Djuna Barnes-artists whose work coincided with the end of empire and the rise of fascism before the Second World War. All these writers delved into the "dark hearts" of imperialism and totalitarianism, thus tackling some of the most complex cultural issues of the day. Marcus investigates previously unrecognized ways in which social and political tensions are embodied by their works.The centerpiece of the book is Marcus's dialogue with one of her best-known essays, "Britannia Rules The Waves." In that piece, she argues that The Waves makes a strong anti-imperialist statement. Although many already support that argument, she now goes further in order to question the moral value of such a buried critique on Woolf's part. In "A Very Fine Negress" she analyzes the painful subject of Virginia Woolf's racism in A Room of One's Own. Other chapters traverse the connected issues of modernism, race, and imperialism. In two of them, we follow Nancy Cunard through the making of the Negro anthology and her appearance in a popular novel of the freewheeling Jazz Age. Elsewhere, Marcus delivers a complex analysis of A Passage to India, in a reading that interrogates E. M. Forster's displacement of his fear of white Englishwomen struggling for the vote.Marcus, as always, brings considerable gifts as both researcher and writer to this collection of new and reprinted essays, a combination resulting in a powerful interpretation of many of modernism's most cherished figures.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4251-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 The Empire Is Written
    (pp. 1-23)

    Like it or not, the fall of empire and the rise of fascism are written into modernism. Treated separately by historians and literary critics, empire and fascism deserve to be looked at not only in terms of each other, as they doubtless were experienced, but also in terms of race and gender.Hearts of Darkness: White Women Write Raceis a book about race, gender, and reading at a moment in which the end of empire and the rise of fascism coincided in Europe’s twenties and thirties—a moment that led to the long “night wood” of Nazism. What Djuna...

  5. 2 “A Very Fine Negress”
    (pp. 24-58)

    “It is one of the great advantages of being a woman that one can pass even a very fine negress without wishing to make an Englishwoman of her,” Virginia Woolf wrote inA Room of One’s Ownin 1929¹.

    Measuring the degrees of irony that raise the temperature of the debate about gender and colonialism, modernism and primitivism, race and nation, in this passage or in its individual words, as they traverse a particular modernist metropolitan passage/flanerie, cannot relieve it of the burden of racism. Even as an empty boast, it is full; as an alibi, it incriminates. If Virginia...

  6. 3 Britannia Rules The Waves
    (pp. 59-85)

    Virginia Woolf’s novelThe Waveshas consistently been read as a work of high modernism, a novel of the thirties that is not a thirties novel.¹ Its canonical status has been based on a series of misreadings of Woolf’s lyrical text as synonymous with and celebratory of upper-class genteel British culture. A look at its structure and time frames, however, makes clear that the italicized interludes take the form of a set of Hindu prayers to the sun, marking its course during a single day and that these (Eastern) episodes surround a (Western) narrative in Coetzee’s “jagged time” of “rise...

  7. 4 Laughing at Leviticus: Nightwood as Woman’s Circus Epic
    (pp. 86-118)

    Djuna Barnes’s great Rabelaisian comic epic novel,Nightwood(1936), now excites the critical attention it deserves. As a contribution to the effort to revive it this essay is a feminist interpretation that argues, among other readings, thatNightwoodis a brilliant and hilarious feminist critique of Freudian psychoanalysis and a parody of thediscourse of diagnosisof female hysteria. Using Julia Kristeva’sPowers of Horror, I argue thatNightwoodin its original title of “Bow Down” and its continual reference to submission and bowing, or lowering of the self, is a study inabjection, and that by its concentration on...

  8. 5 Bonding and Bondage: Nancy Cunard and The Making of The Negro Anthology
    (pp. 119-149)

    If it is true that oppression belongs to the culture of the oppressors, then it is also true that cultural historians need to remember that they are the ones who name and catalog histories. Blaming the victim has too often been the result of attributing oppression to those who were oppressed. For slavery continues to be studied as a problem in black history, when it is surely (first of all rather than also) a subject in the story of white cultures. Yet the identity of the historians and producers of knowledge about subject peoples has recently been scrutinized mercilessly for...

  9. 6 Laying Down the White Woman’s Burden: Michael Arlen’s The Green Hat and Mulk Raj Anand’s Coolie
    (pp. 150-178)

    Iris Storm (the Nancy Cunard figure inThe Green Hat) is “unreproductive,” to use Angela Ingram’s term; her sexuality is not related to motherhood, nor her behavior to traditional maternal self-sacrifice.¹ She is agent (and sign) of the end of European civilization. Primitivism, the wholesale European modernist appropriation of Africa in the arts, is only partly explanatory of the white artist’s identification with African culture. Her unreproductive (androgynous) image relies on the power of the cultural projection of erotic exotic motherhood onto to the African woman. Joseph Conrad’s image of Africa as Europe’s “heart of darkness” works so well and...

  10. Coda: How to Recognize a Public Intellectual
    (pp. 179-182)

    When I say that in about April 1934, human character changed, I am revising Virginia Woolf’s declaration of a revolution in (bourgeois European) seeing, engendered by the 1910 Cézanne show in London. Nancy Cunard’s huge collaborative book,Negro,— an anthology of writing, photographs, music, drawings, ethnographies, and poems from Africa and its diasporas—signifies another change in the way certain white people might have seen the world at the time of its publication by Wishart in London in 1934. As a major thirties documentary,Negrogathered hundreds of writers to explode the myth of the racial inferiority of blacks. Cunard’s...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 183-200)
  12. Index
    (pp. 201-220)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-222)