Framing the Land: Wilderness, Mysticality, Femininity, and Corruption in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

Guðrun Henrysdóttir, Mathias Nikolaj Reidl, Sofie Charlotte Christensen & Amalie Houmann

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


This project seeks to examine Joseph Conrad’s framing of the land of the Congo as wild, mystical, feminine, and corruptive in the novel Heart of Darkness. The project argues that Heart of Darkness should be read as both a work that represents and reproduces colonial discourses, but also as a work of high aesthetic quality. The novel should thus not be dismissed purely for political reasons, but readers should not be unaware of its political implications either. The project is based on George Lakoff’s theory of framing as found in Don’t Think of an Elephant, Lakoff and Johnson’s theory of conceptual metaphors, as well McClintock’s description of colonial discourses and imperial history. The analysis is a close-reading of Heart of Darkness that focuses on metaphorical concepts, framing and political and philosophical ideas behind particular representations and conceptualizations, in particular a metaphorical schema that we have called LAND IS FEMALE, as well as anxieties related to loss of moral orientation, loss of agency, and more. The project concludes that Heart of Darkness is fundamentally a novel that reproduces colonial discourses through, for instance, the LAND IS FEMALE-schema, yet it does so with an ambivalence and complexity that makes the novel well-suited for the exploration of ideas in colonial literature; particularly men’s views on lands, women, colonies, and more, as well as what may be characterized as male anxieties.

UddannelserBasis - International Humanistisk Bacheloruddannelse, (Bachelor uddannelse) BasisBasis - Humanistisk Bacheloruddannelse, (Bachelor uddannelse) Basis
Udgivelsesdato18 maj 2016
VejledereKirsten Holst Petersen


  • Metaphors
  • Post-colonial
  • Heart of Darkness
  • Framing