Religious Consciousness in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Keywords:Religious consciousness, modernist novel, Catholic faith, autobiographical element, nihilism, Conrad, Joyce
The paper examines religious consciousness in the modernist novels of Joseph Conrad’s 1902 Heart of Darkness and James Joyce’s 1916 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with the objective of illustrating that though these writers apparently rejected the Catholic faith, they were still spiritually conscious and were thus able to detect and question religious values that were repressive. This consciousness is enriched by autobiographical elements prompted by the nihilism of the early twentieth century. Although Heart of Darkness is a colonial novel and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man traces the development of a potential artist, both converge on the critique of religious hypocrisy and injustice. Using the concepts of psychobiography, the conscious and unconscious of the Psychoanalytic theory as well as the concept of nihilism of the Modernist theory, the paper demonstrates that both Conrad and Joyce effectively make a critique of religion by the inclusion of various aspects of their real life experiences in their novels. They do this not to reject religion per se but for its reformation. In other words, the religious views of the protagonists in both works reflect those of their authors. Both authors portray not what is dominantly fictional but what they were a part of. This paper’s significance is its projection of the notion that it is the exploration of religious consciousness from an autobiographical perspective that gives the British modernist novel its strength and major difference. Conrad and Joyce demonstrate that without sincerity, justice, restraint, controlled freedom and mutual respect, the individual and society degenerate. Literature serves as a fabric of culture with the writer as the voice of conscience.
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