Postcolonial romanticisms? The sublime and negative capability in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians

Philip Dickinson


This paper investigates two concepts that are central to the relationship between romanticism and postcolonialism. I discuss the sublime in specific relation to Heart of Darkness, developing a sense of how the potential "postcolonialism" of the text might be related to the way in which it offers its own reconstitution of this very manifold concept. Moving from a sense of the indeterminacy of Conrad's text, I discuss how Keats's idea of negative capability might exist in Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, in terms of the complex relationship Coetzee seems to suggest between ethical behaviour and "half-knowledge." The paper also asks about the relationship between understanding and mastery in literary criticism in such postcolonial contexts.

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