Exile, Utopia, and the Will to Empire: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

  • Mihai I. Spariosu
Part of the Modernism and … book series (MAND)


Conrad’s short, but very complex, novel stages a particular instance of the will to power manifesting itself as will to empire in the late 19th Century Belgian Congo. Of course, empire building is one of the most common manifestations of the will to power in most historical periods, so that the novel dramatizes its more general features while addressing its specific modernist traits as well. In Modernism, the will to empire, which constantly deals with otherness in its ceaseless quest to overcome and appropriate (or annihilate) new geocultural spaces, arrives at an impasse: the exilic-utopian imagination that drives it seems to have reached an acute state of crisis so that when it is confronted with otherness, it often perceives it as terrifying void, darkness, death, and nothingness. The will needs thus to devise new strategies of using that selfsame terror in order to accomplish its objectives. Since Conrad wrote his novel during a time that Modernism was in full swing (late 1890s), he diagnoses the crisis, presenting a compelling picture of the psychopathology of the modernist exilic-utopian imagination. He also hints at a cure, without resorting, however, to such modernist strategies as TMT (Terror Management Theory), mentioned in the previous chapter, which could eventually only aggravate the illness.


Black Bank Terror Management Theory Liminal Space Hide Meaning Empire Building 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Joseph Conrad (2012 [1899]), Heart of Darkness, London, New York, Toronto: Penguin, p. 2. Further page references are to this edition.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See Francis Bacon (1962), The Advancement of Knowledge, edited by G. W. Kitchin, London and New York: Dent.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Friedrich Nietzsche (1966) Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, translated by Walter Kaufmann, New York: Vintage, Aphorism 146.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mihai I. Spariosu 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mihai I. Spariosu
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations