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“To Boldly Go”: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and popular culture.

  Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899) is a text that has consistently resisted analytic closure. That is to say that its relevance to the twentieth century (and now the twenty-first century) is apparent through the allusions to the story in our media and culture. As each new "horror" of the postmodern world emerges, Heart of Darkness acquires new meanings that extend its relevance beyond the imperial boundaries of the Belgian Congo of the 1880s and '90s, and bring to Conrad's vision a shockingly contemporary pertinence. Francis Ford Coppola realized the adaptability of what Conrad was trying to convey when he filmed Apocalypse Now in the 1970s: innumerable media references to Heart of Darkness have ensued, some inspired by Coppola's film, but many also inspired by renewed interest in Conrad's text. In this discussion I will draw attention to the variety of ways that Heart of Darkness has been used in our popular culture, and suggest that there is a broader interdependence between popular culture and some of our most valued literary products. I will argue that literature, and Conrad's novella in particular, have a large role to play in the postmodern erasure of the divide between "high culture" and "low culture."

  • Type:


  • Date:

    22 September 2002

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  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    PR English literature


Dryden, L. (2002). “To Boldly Go”: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and popular culture. Conradiana. 34, 70-149. ISSN 0010-6356



Joseph Conrad; Heart of Darkness; postmodern; "high" culture; "Low" culture; popular culture; Apocalypse now; cultural allusion; Francis Ford Coppola; interdependence;

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