Moving Beyond "Huh?": Ambiguity in Heart of Darkness

byLudy P. Aguada

The anchor text for this unit is Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. In this unit, students will use Marlow's recounting of his journey up the Congo as a metaphor for their own journey into learning how to make meaning from a text that, for many of them, defies understanding. They will use Socratic seminars, dialectical journals, group reading, and in-class essays to build the close reading skills that serve as the foundation for being able to interpret texts. Hopefully, with my guidance and support from each other, their journey will end on a much more hopeful, less ominous and brooding note than that of Marlow and Kurtz.

(Developed for AP English Literature and Composition, grade 12; recommended for English, grade 12, and AP English Literature, grades 11-12)

Comments (13)

    Tim Anthony (kalaheo High School, Kailua, Hi)
    Subject taught: Ap Lit, Grade: 12
    You mention chapter tests. Can you share those tests?
    Lindsay Ten (San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, San Diego, CA)
    Subject taught: English, Creative Writing, Journalism, Grade: 10
    Is there a way for me to get a copy of the tests (with or without the keys) to the HOD unit? I find test writing to be a great weakness, and I love the rest of this unit.
    Denise Lynn Cuevas (Northeast BRadford Jr Sr High School, Rome, PA)
    Subject taught: AP Literature, Grade: 12
    Heart of Darkness
    You unit is excellent. You mention a list of literary phrases to help them become accustomed to discussing literature. Would you please share those.
    George S. Laroche (International Language and Business Center, Yangon, Myanmar, Southeast Asia, NA)
    Subject taught: Western Literature, Western Philosophy, Grade: NA
    Kind Request
    Dear Ludy P. Aguada:

    Thank you for publishing your very helpful insights on teaching Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. I’m just wondering whether you would be so kind as to share two additional pieces of information: 1) Your list of literary phrases and, 2) the set of reading questions developed by K. Tully and R. Litchfield.

    If there’s anything I can do to facilitate your transferring that information to me, just kindly let me know and I’ll be very glad to do it.

    Best regards

    Kay Berry (Dixie High School, Saint George, UT)
    Subject taught: AP Literature, Grade: 12
    More Information
    Dear Ludy P. Aguada:

    I, too, like the others above would like a list of the literary phrases, set of reading questions by K.Tully and R. Litchfield, and the tests with answers. I understand if that cannot be provided. The lesson plans and insights you provide on the website are very helpful. I am finding with each year that I teach AP Literature, higher level thinking is hard to come by. Most students are not doing enough reading on their own to understand allusions or critical thinking questions, and if they are reading books, perhaps these books are not classics, or higher level vocabulary books with deep meaning.

    Thank you so much.

    Kay Berry
    Kris K Dutson (Marana Unified School District, Tucson, AZ)
    Subject taught: AP Lit and Comp, Grade: 11
    Hi, and thank you for sharing your HOD unit. If possible, can I access your formative and summative assessments for this unit?

    Thank you!

    Tara Hall (Skype British Lit Instructor, Cypress, TX)
    Subject taught: British Literature & Composition, Grade: 12
    Wonderful resource!!
    I have waited 6 years to add Heart of Darkness into my lessons. This site gave me a great launching pad to use! I am thrilled to be teaching it and excited to see how far my students\' analytical skills will grow. I don\'t need quizzes, but would love to see a few Socratic discussion questions that garner the most responses in your classes.
    Tracy Owen Peterson (Flint Hill School, Vienna, VA)
    Subject taught: AP LIterature, Grade: 12
    The Phrases (what else?)

    I know everyone is clamoring for those phrases you give students to help them converse at the college level. I would love to have a copy of them, if you are willing to share them. I can\'t imagine how helpful they might be to my students.

    Thanks so much,
    Joni H. Mah (Granite Hills High Schol, El Cajon, CA)
    Subject taught: English, Grade: 12
    Materials, please
    Is it possible to get a copy of the discussion questions from Tully and Litchfield? They are no longer available at the web address listed. Also, I\'d love copies of the tests and literary phrases, if possible. Thank you for the great website!
    Lindsay Allen (Lakeridge High School, Lake Oswego, Or)
    Subject taught: 10th Honors, AP Lit, Grade: 11
    PLEASE share \"list of phrases that they use to help them converse like literary critics.\"
    I would LOVE to have access to this list as well.
    Katie Walters (Butte High School, Butte, MT)
    Subject taught: English, Grade: 10
    Literary phrases

    If possible, I would love to see the list of literary phrases you mention using to support your students.


    Katie Walters
    Courtney Saundera (Church Farm School, Exton, PA)
    Subject taught: English, Grade: 10
    Socratic Seminar/Literary phrases
    Would love to have access to the Socratic seminar discussion questions, and the literary phrases!

    Thank you!

    Amy Rae Smith (Nevada High School, Nevada, MO)
    Subject taught: Advanced English I, Grade: 9
    Will you share your...
    - quizzes over each chapter
    - literary phrases

    I am attempting to teach this to my Advanced English I students - with much guidance! I love how your lessons use Socratic Seminars (they love doing those so that will fit right in with their personalities.)

    Thank you so much for any help you are willing to offer me.

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