Conrad's relationship to Schopenhauer and the nineteenth-century traditions of pessimism sponsored by the German philosopher has long been a contentious critical issue. This paper discovers a new shaping context for Kurtz, the Promethean outlaw-philosopher and ubiquitous "voice" of Heart of Darkness, not in Schopenhauer's own writings but in the secondary myths, legends, and icons that endowed the great philosopher with a potent cultural afterlife during the period from 1870 to 1900. The numerous consonances between this body of later Schopenhauriana and Heart of Darkness point to ways in which powerful fin du globe anxieties and dark ancestral obsessions covertly inform both the tale's construction of Kurtz and its narrative practices-notably, its fashioning of a mythical narrative drawing upon established parallels between Schopenhauer and a monistic heart of darkness, its preoccupation with the problems of hearing and transmitting a ubiquitous legacy, and its climactic issue in the experiences of a disciple haunted by the spectral ghost of a dead ancestor. When placed against three varied examples from the period's Schopenhaueriana-Maupassant's short story "Beside a Dead Man" (1883), William Wallace's biography of the philosopher (1890), and Nietzsche's celebratory "Schopenhauer as Educator" from his Thoughts Out of Season (1874)-Heart of Darkness emerges as a work embroiled in an anxiety of influence whose invasive voices are both welcomed and resisted: its welcome most evident in cryptographic play with elements of the Schopenhauer legend, its resistance most marked in the skeptical rewriting of the celebratory mode employed by Nietzsche to welcome the heroic educator. A final coda views the tale's rhetorical excesses in the light of these contextual influences and suggests ways in which the substantially "Schopenhauerian world" of the story bears upon its concerns as a historically situated colonial fiction.
- Copyright 1994 The Regents of the University of California