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Title: Tradition and Modernity in Chinua Achebe's African Trilogy
Authors: Morrison, J
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Citation: Research in African Literatures
Abstract: In recent years, the celebrated status of Achebe’s early fiction within African Literature has come under attack from leading critics. Novels which were previously heralded for their reclamation of pre-colonial tradition have instead come in for censure, as works in thrall to the ideology of Western Modernity. This essay offers a riposte to these critiques, re-reading Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease and Arrow of God as three parts of a unified project which problematizes the opposition of tradition/modernity, expressing Achebe’s distinctively Igbo commitment to dialogue and boundary crossing. Throughout these works, the problem that occupies Achebe most urgently is that of leadership in changing times. In pre-colonial culture, the figure of the elder exemplified a model of authority as selfless service, regulating and moderating destabilising elements. The Trilogy shows the systematic erosion of that function and the ascendancy of the colonial bureaucrat, for whom a parallel ideal of disinterestedness merges with a pitiless and dehumanizing gaze. Undoubtedly, this loss is central to the tragedy depicted by the novels. What they also show, the essay argues however, is a persistent, creative spirit of adaptation in the society Achebe portrays. Facing the existential crisis of colonisation, he presents a community still at work in the ‘messy workshop’ where a future might be negotiated.
ISSN: 1527-2044
Appears in Collections:Dept of Arts and Humanities Embargoed Research Papers

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