Mark D. Larabee is formerly Associate Professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, Maryland), where he taught English and ethics, and served as Associate Chair of the English Department, after many years at sea. His latest book is The Historian’s Heart of Darkness (2018), a new edition of Joseph Conrad’s masterpiece that presents Conrad’s fiction as a guide to social and cultural history. His previous book is Front Lines of Modernism (2011), about how British authors used landscape description to shape the meaning of the First World War. He has also published numerous articles on Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Yasunari Kawabata, World War I art and literature, travel writing, and teaching. Since 2009 he has served as Executive Editor of Joseph Conrad Today (the official publication of the Joseph Conrad Society of America), and Treasurer of the Joseph Conrad Society of America. His writing and research have won national awards, and he is the first-ever recipient of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Military Professor Teaching Excellence Award. He holds a PhD in English language and literature from the University of Washington.

(Profile photo: Frederick Judd Waugh, Under the Full Moon. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)


Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/marklarabee


The Historian’s Heart of Darkness: Reading Conrad’s Masterpiece as Social and Cultural History (Praeger, 2018). Publisher website. Amazon. Barnes and Noble.

Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness not only reveals important truths about Europe and Africa a century ago, but it also tells a story that illuminates historical forces continuing to shape the world we live in now.

Fiction has tremendous power to portray historical truth―and to communicate history to audiences who may not otherwise attend to the subject. This book presents Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to students and general readers as an insightful guide to the history of Europe and Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

• Provides a fresh perspective on Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness by presenting this fictional story as a crucial source of historical knowledge

• Explains key background information for better understanding Heart of Darkness, such as how Conrad’s life uniquely positioned him to chronicle social and cultural history; the colonial partitioning of Africa and the founding of the Congo Free State; and the ivory and rubber trades in the Congo and the atrocities ensuing from these lucrative industries

• Provides the texts of both Heart of Darkness and Conrad’s autobiographical “Congo Diary” along with more than 200 annotations that illuminate the links between the story and its contexts as well as identify how Conrad shaped historical facts for his fictional portrayal

• Ideal for students taking classes on modern world history, European history, African history, British history, western civilization, European colonialism, exploration and empire, or imperialism

Front Lines of Modernism: Remapping the Great War in British Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). Publisher website. Amazon. Barnes and Noble.

This book shows how British authors used landscape description to shape the meaning of the First World War. Using a broad range of critically neglected archival materials, it reexamines modernist and traditional writing to reveal how various modes of topographical representation allowed authors to construct healing responses to the war.

Articles and book chapters

“Guano, Globalization, and Ecosystem Change in Lord Jim. Conrad and Nature: Essays, edited by Lissa Schneider-Rebozo, Jeffrey Mathes McCarthy, and John G. Peters. Routledge, 2019. Publisher website. Amazon. Barnes and Noble.

What exactly is the guano island episode doing in Lord Jim (1900)? Marlow’s vision of Jim partly buried in bird waste is worthy of more attention than it has received. The scholarship that has considered this passage at any length has focused primarily on biographical sources. Other critics have dealt with the episode only incidentally, reading it as symbolizing Jim’s punishment or a life of greed, corruption, or material interests, similarly leaving the guano itself unexamined. However, such readings lack the considerable historical and cultural context of guano as an endangered natural resource in Conrad’s time. Restoring the novel to those overlooked ecological circumstances allows us to reread the episode as pivotal to Conrad’s extended portrayal of Jim’s relation to the natural world. This essay casts a new light on the setting of Lord Jim by drawing on critically neglected primary sources detailing the geography of the South Pacific, dramatic changes in global networks of fertilizer production and commerce, and late nineteenth-century anxieties regarding the world’s declining fertility. The result reveals essential ties between landscape and character in Lord Jim. The novel responds to emerging concerns about human exploitation of the earth’s riches, and Jim’s moral redemption is inextricably linked to ecologies of scarcity and primal abundance represented by the guano island and Patusan. Ultimately, this fresh reading of the novel demonstrates how much Conrad’s prescient understanding of ecosystem change shaped his narrative art.

“Joseph Conrad.” Oxford Bibliographies in British and Irish Literature. Ed. Andrew Hadfield. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Updated 2018. A detailed evaluation of over 160 works of published scholarship on Joseph Conrad.  Website.

“World War I Landscapes at the United States Naval Academy” Teaching Representations of the First World War, edited by Debra Rae Cohen and Douglas Higbee. MLA, 2017. Publisher website. Amazon. Barnes and Noble.

This essay describes materials and methods for teaching landscapes of the First World War through texts by Ford Madox Ford, Edmund Blunden, Rebecca West, C. E. Montague, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Georg Trakl, Eugenio Montale, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Henri Barbusse, Emilio Lussu, and Ernst Jünger; and in art by C.R.W. Nevinson, Paul Nash, John Nash, D.Y. Cameron, Stanley Spencer, and Muirhead Bone. Sample courses incorporate units on maps; verbal description (e.g., Baedeker guidebooks); visual art including conventions of the beautiful, picturesque, and sublime (with reference to Longinus, Burke, Kant); and the imaginative globalization of war. Addresses Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. Includes plans for reading paintings alongside texts, referring to G.E. Lessing, Joseph Frank, and W.J.T. Mitchell. Themes include myth and memory as well as combat experiences in recent wars.

“Ford Madox Ford.” Oxford Bibliographies in British and Irish Literature. Ed. Andrew Hadfield. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. A detailed evaluation of almost 90 works of published scholarship on Ford Madox Ford.  Website.

“Conrad and The Great War at Sea.” The Conradian 40.2 (Autumn 2015): 55-77. Website.

“Reimagining the Great War at 100 Years.” The Space Between: Literature and Culture, 1914-1945 10 (2014) [2015]. Website.

“Conrad and the Spaces of War.” Conradiana 46.1-2 (Spring/Summer 2014): 5-19. Website.

“Wampum in Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier: A Native American and Modernist Artifact of Place.” The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1915-1945 6.1 (2010): 59-79. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 308. Farmington Hills: Gale, 2015. Website.

“‘A Mysterious System’: Topographical Fidelity and the Charting of Imperialism in Joseph Conrad’s Siamese Waters.” Article in Studies in the Novel (32.3, Fall 2000, 348-68) reprinted in the Norton Critical Edition The Secret Sharer and Other Stories, ed. John G. Peters. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015. 480-98. In Studies in the Novel. in The Secret Sharer and Other Stories: Publisher website; Amazon; Barnes and Noble.

“Metaphorical Landscapes in Conrad and Kawabata.” Conrad Studies 5 (2014): 1-28. A comparative study of Joseph Conrad’s Victory (1915) and Yasunari Kawabata’s Yukiguni (Snow Country, 1935-37) on the basis of their landscape descriptions. Reveals shared aesthetic responses to conditions of modern globalization. Website.

“Baedekers as Casualty: Great War Nationalism and the Fate of Travel Writing.” Journal of the History of Ideas 71.3 (July 2010): 457-80. This article addresses the critically neglected relation between Baedekers and nationalism, in order to articulate the reasons for the decline of the Baedeker empire in the early twentieth century. Website.

“Modernism and the Country House in Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier.” English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920 53.1 (January 2010): 75-94. This article relates Ford Madox Ford’s novel The Good Soldier to the traditions of estate poetry, arguing that Ford relies on implicit contrasts with the ideals of country house landlordship in order to figure contemporary identities and social crises. Website.

“Joseph Conrad and the Maritime Tradition.” A Historical Guide to Joseph Conrad. Ed. John G. Peters. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. 47-75. Explains how Conrad’s sea career shaped his writing, focusing on three aspects: trade and maritime globalization, the concept of fidelity, and the ideals of craftsmanship. Publisher website. Amazon. Barnes and Noble.

“Territorial Vision and Revision in ‘Freya of the Seven Isles.’” Joseph Conrad: The Short Fiction. Eds. Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan, Allan H. Simmons, and J. H. Stape. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004. 96-110. (The Conradian 28.2 [Autumn 2003]: 96-110.) Article website. Amazon. Barnes and Noble.

“Teaching ‘The Secret Sharer’ at the United States Naval Academy.” Approaches to Teaching Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and “The Secret Sharer.” Eds. Hunt Hawkins and Brian W. Shaffer. New York: Modern Language Association, 2002. 126-32. Publisher website. Amazon. Barnes and Noble.

“‘A Funny Piece of Water’: The Altered Seascape of Joseph Conrad’s Gulf of Siam.” CEA Critic 63.1 (Fall 2000): 36-46.

Book Reviews

Jean M. Szczypien’s “Sailing towards Poland” with Joseph Conrad (2017). Conradiana (forthcoming)

“Modernist Moralities.” Review of Stephen Kern’s Modernism After the Death of God: Christianity, Fragmentation, and Unification (2017). English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920 62.3 (2019): 441-44. Website.

Richard Ruppel’s A Political Genealogy of Joseph Conrad (2015). Conradiana 47.2 (Summer 2015): 147-50. Website.

“The Modernist Novel Reconsidered.” Review of Gregory Castle’s A History of the Modernist Novel (2015). English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920 60.1 (2017): 115-18. Website.

“‘The Prose Homer of the Great Ocean’: William Clark Russell.” Review of Andrew Nash’s William Clark Russell and the Victorian Nautical Novel (2014). English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920 59.1 (January 2016): 122-25. Website.

J. H. Stape and Ernest W. Sullivan’s Conrad’s Lord Jim (2010). Conradiana 45.2 (Fall 2013): 163-65. Website.

“Gender, Poetry, & the Great War.” Review of Argha Banerjee’s Poetry of the First World War (2011). English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920 56.1 (2013): 125-28. Website.

“Revisiting London at the Start of the Great War.” Review of Michael J. K. Walsh’s London, Modernism, and 1914 (2010). English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920 55.2 (2012): 247-52. Website.

Stephen Donovan’s Joseph Conrad and Popular Culture (2005). Joseph Conrad Today 32.1 (Fall 2007): 6-8.

Eyal Peretz’s Literature, Disaster, and the Enigma of Power: A Reading of Moby-Dick (2003). Modern Fiction Studies 50.3 (Fall 2004): 795-97. Website.

Cesare Casarino’s Modernity at Sea: Melville, Marx, Conrad in Crisis (2002). Modern Fiction Studies 49.4 (Winter 2003): 874-76. Website.

Mark D. Larabee

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