The White Man’s Peril: Heart of Darkness as Conrad’s Reply to Kipling


Today often considered both anti-imperialist and profoundly racist, Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness can be understood as simultaneously affirming and rejecting the “imperial logic” epitomized in Rudyard Kipling’s contemporaneous poem “The White Man’s Burden”. This lecture will attempt to offer a holistic interpretation of Conrad’s novella that makes sense of its apparent internal contradictions by examining Kipling’s “imperial logic” and Conrad’s critique of it — a critique grounded in the profoundly multivalent contention at Heart of Darkness’s unspoken, “horrific” core: that “Whiteness is only skin-deep”.