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Critical Theory of

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David Jackson

on 14 December 2014

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Transcript of Critical Theory of

Critical Theory
of
Things Fall Apart

MYTHOLOGICAL
THINKING

POST
COLONIAL
AMBIGUITY

Recovering Authentic African Culture
Adapting to Western Aesthetic


Okonkwo compared to a founder of civilization

"..the founder of the town engaged the spirit of the wild"
(p. 3)
Order & Chaos
Earth & Sky Myths
Ritual
Sacrifice

"...the doomed lad who was sacrificed to the village of Umuofia..."
(p. 8)
"..Ani, the earth goddess and the source of all fertility...played a greater part in the life of of the people than any other deity."
(C5, p. 36)
Founding of Civilization
The world is bounded by mother & father gods
Mother is earth, womb, nurturer
Earth cults are agricultural
CA's choice to write in English
Using the genre conventions of the Western novel
TFA as a classical tragedy
The world is ordered by absolute boundaries
The most basic is the boundary between order & chaos
Chaos is symbolized by water, underworld, forest, etc.; it personfied as a monster, etc.
The hero crosses the boundary and either slays the monster or esablishes the rules for not crossing
Time is cyclical
The agricultural cycles parallel the patterns of life & death & rebirth
The sacrificial victim (hero) must act out for the community the cycle of death & rebirth

TFA as anti-
"Heart of Darkness"
CA's choice to not translate key African terms
CA's unsymapthetic portrayal of the his protagonist, Okonkwo
CA's symapthetic portrayal of the his protagonist, Okonkwo
Issues
of
Interpretation

Relativism
"Mr. Brown's policy of Compromise" (p. 185)
Syncretism
The clan elders as capable of relative judgment (p. 190-1)
"It is good that a man should worship..."
"..he does not understand..just as we do not..."
The Yeats allusion in the title of the book
There is no cultural basis of the novel. It is, rather, a representation of cultural difference.
"Mr. Brown learned a good deal about the religion of the clan and he came to the conclusion that a frontal attack on it would not succeed. And so he built a school." (p. 181)
Judgments about a practice must be made in relation to the cultural perspective in which they have meaning.
Religious beliefs and practices are formed out of a synthesis of diverse cultures.
"Whenever Mr Brown went to the village [he spoke] through an interpreter about religion." (p. 179)
"You say there is one supreme God who made heaven & earth...We also believe in him and call him Chukwu." (p. 179)
Achebe wrote his novels in English and defended the use of English, a "language of colonizers", in African literature.
In 1975, his lecture An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" featured a famous criticism of Joseph Conrad as "a thoroughgoing racist"
Achebe said that the written form of Igbo was created by the British and had limited poetic value.
The flaws of Okonkwo (including his suicide) & the contradictions of his culture (between heroic individual & the needs of the community) are given an artistic meaning, defined in Western, classical Greek, terms.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Interpreting Things Fall Apart requires that the reader decide whether CA is recovering African culture of adapting to Western culture.
Full transcript