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Conrad: Heart of Darkness

1. Conrad's Life

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In this module, we focus on the life of Joseph Conrad, thinking in particular about his upbringing in the Polish town of Berdychiv, his early career as a merchant sailor in both France and England, and his later work as a writer of novels.


In this course, Professor Cedric Watts (University of Sussex) explores Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The course begins by looking at Conrad's life – beginning with his upbringing in the small town of Berdychiv, and following his career as both a sailor and a writer. After that, we turn to the novel itself, thinking about whether Heart of Darkness is either 'racist', 'sexist' or both. In the fourth module, we consider the extent to which Heart of Darkness may be seen as a Modernist text, before turning in the fifth and final module to some of the subtleties of the tale – its delayed decoding, its covert plotting, and its use of symbolism.


Cedric Watts is an Emeritus Professor of English at Sussex University. He served in the Royal Navy before gaining a first class BA in English at Cambridge University. He has written six books on Conrad and his works: A Preface to Conrad, The Deceptive Text, Joseph Conrad, 'Heart of Darkness': A Critical and Contextual Discussion, Joseph Conrad: A Literary Life, and Joseph Conrad: 'Nostromo'(a Penguin critical study).

Cedric Watts's novel, Final Exam (written under the pseudonym 'Peter Green'), earned this tribute from Ian McEwan: 'I was fascinated and pleased by Final Exam - a stimulating blend of high-energy intellectual and sexual tease.'

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Watts, C. (2018, August 15). Conrad: Heart of Darkness - Conrad's Life [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Watts, Cedric. "Conrad: Heart of Darkness – Conrad's Life." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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