Thursday, December 1, 2011

Musings--Heart of Darkness

Photo: Man Who Laughs, Conrad Veidt

A few quick snippets that occurred to me today about this seminal work:

1.  I was wondering today why so many works circa 1890-1900 centered around the mask we wear to keep apart the good and bad parts of our nature--or, rather, that we all wear to separate the good and bad parts of human nature.  Take a look at all the works published between 1890-1900 about this theme:

Heart of Darkness (1899)--Joseph Conrad
Dracula (1897)--Bram Stoker
Phantom of the Opera (1909)--Gaston Leroux (vastly different plot than its films)
The Picture of Dorian Grey (1890)--Oscar Wilde
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)--Robert Louis Stevenson
Many works by Freud (1897 to The Ego and the Id in 1923)

The list could go on.  Was this always the case, that works about the mask of civilization upon our primitive nature have always been with us?  I don't know.  Rousseau certainly railed against much of this; his works and beliefs, still very strong with us, certainly had an effect on the French and American Revolutions, and still created heated debate in the 1890s, if not today.  He was very popular in 1890s Europe and America.

But I think it was Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859, and Freud's massive popularity starting in the 1880s, that re-ignited this debate.  And at the end of the Victorian Era, maybe many artists realized how supposedly suppressed they were, but yet weren't, and a lot of works and thoughts erupted from that.  It continues today, but in an interesting reversal--

(to be continued)

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