“A Subject Becomes a Heart”: The Therapeutic Style of the Heart of Darkness Novel Tradition

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2023

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Abstract

This dissertation applies the concept of a therapeutic emotional style, drawn from the cultural study of the emotions, in a historical and theoretical interpretation of ascendant psychoanalytic discourse in modernist studies. I historicize the ascendance of a “therapeutic style” in modern novels and literary criticism through genealogical analysis of the legacy of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I approach the novel’s tradition historically, in terms of Eva Illouz’s account of therapy, and theoretically, in terms of Edward Said’s ideology critique of imperial culture. Turning to novelists Graham Greene and Paule Constant, the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud and Karen Horney, and American Vietnam War novels read alongside Robert Jay Lifton’s trauma theory, I establish the basis for understanding why Heart of Darkness has been institutionalized as a paradigmatic text for the therapeutic culture of modern and contemporary literature and literary criticism.

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Sarfan, Austin (2023). “A Subject Becomes a Heart”: The Therapeutic Style of the Heart of Darkness Novel Tradition. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27644.

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