Reading the Troubled Past

Sunday, August 11, 2019

What is it

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe lambasted Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness as a deeply racist work that should be removed from the Western canon. Defenders of Conrad say the novel is simply an expression of its time and not an endorsement of the racist attitudes it represents. So how do we judge the moral legitimacy of older works of literature and philosophy? Should we shun writers for holding racist or sexist views? Or is it important to read—and censure—them? Is it fair to judge authors of the past by today’s politically conscious standards? Josh and Ken have no trouble reading with Julie Napolin from The New School, author of The Fact of Resonance: Modernist Acoustics and Narrative Form (forthcoming).

Comments (1)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, August 29, 2019 -- 7:57 AM

Once again, and with direct

Once again, and with direct and expressed feeling: you cannot change history, and, like it or not, we learn some things from our mistakes...if, and when, they truly ARE mistakes. If writers EXPRESS racist and/or sexist views, is it a quod erat demonstrandum that they thereby HOLD them? Or are they acting as barometers for society generally? Lamenting 'the human condition'?


Julie Napolin, Professor of Digital Humanities, The New School


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