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Exploring Victorian Travel LiteratureDisease, Race and Climate$
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Jessica Howell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748692958

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748692958.001.0001

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‘Self rather seedy’: Conrad’s Colonial Pathographies

‘Self rather seedy’: Conrad’s Colonial Pathographies

(p.137) Chapter 5 ‘Self rather seedy’: Conrad’s Colonial Pathographies
Exploring Victorian Travel Literature

Jessica Howell

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter offers a reading of Heart of Darkness and ‘Outpost of Progress’ as belonging to a specific sub-genre of pathography, or illness narrative, which developed in the context of travel to the tropics. This subgenre is characterised by climatic disease worry and racial constitutionalism. The main white characters in Conrad’s fiction are highly susceptible to environmental influences, demonstrate poor judgement and also may have vulnerable underlying constitutions. Most are afraid of tropical illness and concerned to avoid it; nevertheless, all become seriously ill. Conrad implies that no measures can fully protect white travellers from the malignant quality of African heat and mist. By emphasising the omnipresence of these challenges, Conrad’s novella and short story throw the colonial project’s basic feasibility into doubt.

Keywords:   pathography, colonialism, Joseph Conrad, degeneration, fiction

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