Africa: A Common Topos in Lawrence and Eliot

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While Joseph Conrad's name is forever linked with Africa, D. H. Lawrence and T. S. Eliot are less readily associated with that theater of European imperialism. However, the African statuettes of Women in Love (WL) have long been seen as crucial to a fully developed reading of Lawrence's novel, and Heart of Darkness is a significant subtext to Eliot's work. In using Africa as a topos, or source of imagery, modernism was drawing from the well to which late Victorian capitalism went. The colonizing of Africa took place at more than a territorial level: Africa became an important mental colony, invested with and settled by numerous myths and figures of considerable semiotic vigor. When a late nineteenth century or early twentieth-century writer alludes to Africa or uses it as a metaphorical vehicle, he or she is summoning up all the accretions that adhere to the semiotic web that is Africa.