orientalism revisited > 03/11/06

Rider Haggard’s fin-de-siècle novel She is an adventure novel, an early Indiana Jones, of the colonial age. She is short for She who must be obeyed, a white queen whose name is Ayesha and the protagonist of the novel. In the novel, a Cambridge professor travels to the heart of darkness (yes, Conrad is here too) that is SHE.

Jung thought of her as a female archetype, the anima, femininity, the Mother, and yes, She can definitely be read as a journey towards the all-devouring Mother, the darkness of lust and power, a site of repulsion/fascination, a common image of Africa, and of orientalism in Edward Said’s sense. That this imagery is still alive and by no means restricted to the fin-de-siècle we can witness in popular culture today, for instance in Marlon Brando’s Vietnamese shrine in Apocalypse Now, which is an adaption of Conrad’s novel The Heart of Darkness. While the setting has changed from the Congo to Vietnam, the journey to ”the horror” at the heart of darkness remains the same.

The Jungian unconscious must here be regarded as a reification of the unconscious as it inscribes the unconscious within categories such as archetypes that are part of a supposed collective unconscious. In doing so, he ontologizes the unconscious and the real. Such a view can only foreclose the mind’s free association and interpretation and, in the process, reduce the speaking subject to a mute object, a fantasm of the mind.


Haggard, Henry Rider. She. Oxford UP, 1991.

Brunner, Cornelia. "Anima as Fate." Jungian Classics Series, no. 9, Spring Publications, 1986.

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