[Work: The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle, 1996]
Not Himself:

Roddy Doyle’s The Woman who Walked into Doors and the Ethics of Representation

 

Introduction:

Roddy Doyle Sketch by M.R.P. - The Woman who Walked into Doors - representation abuse poverty

Sketch by M.R.P.

The Woman who Walked into Doors, written by Booker Award-winning Irish novelist Roddy Doyle, is a novel from 1996 with a strange pedigree. Its narrative began life as part of an award-winning 1994 television miniseries called Family, also written by Doyle. It was then partially ‘novelized’ to produce the work in question.

Despite being a novelization of a multimedia production—a strategy most well known for its overabundance of slapdash cash grabs—The Woman who Walked into Doors is an excellent novel. But its origin is not the subject of this article, and its quality is secondary to that subject; the subject of this article is the book’s representation of its narrator and protagonist, a working class woman who is abused by her husband, who cares deeply for her child, and who develops a drinking problem.

In particular, this article intends to consider a point of view which I have encountered over and over again in academic, professional, and casual discussions of different works of art. It is a point of view to which I am sympathetic, but with some serious reservations, and it is something that I can not help but think about when working on my own creative writing. It can be summed up relatively well as follows: ‘It is disingenuous or morally questionable for an artist to assume the perspective of a person with an identity the artist does not personally possess, especially when that identity is underprivileged, disadvantaged, or underrepresented in the artist’s culture.’ This is a delicate topic, and one I intend to give a fair consideration.

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[Work: The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle, 1996]
Not Himself:

Roddy Doyle’s The Woman who Walked into Doors and the Ethics of Representation

was last modified: March 25th, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1899]
A Controversy Worth Teaching:

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Ethics of Stature

 

Introduction:

Chinua Achebe Sketch - Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness - An Image of Africa - racism, writing

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

By far the most enduringly famous of Joseph Conrad’s literary works (with the possible exception of Lord Jim) is Heart of Darkness, a novella that has encountered boundless acclaim and boundless disdain in the century since its release. Its proponents highlight its contemporary progressivism; its impressionistic prose style; and its thematic depth. Its opponents highlight its confusing, vague, and slow-moving plot; its backgrounding of Africa and Africans behind a story about Europeans; and its intermittent direct characterizations of late 19th century Africa and Africans as primitive and uncivilized.

In my estimation, both camps are correct. Conrad was an English prose master as well as a confusingly vague writer. Conrad was a progressive as well as a racist. Heart of Darkness is a deeply troubled book. So, was professor and novelist Chinua Achebe correct when he wrote that, in light of its flaws, Heart of Darkness should not be so widely taught nor so highly lauded?

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[Work: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, 1899]
A Controversy Worth Teaching:

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the Ethics of Stature

was last modified: December 21st, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski