Before I retired from teaching at the
Over the course of my teaching career, I taught THINGS FALL APART and Achebe's novel NO LONGER AT EASE (1960) more often than I taught any other works of imaginative literature of comparable length.
In THE PRESENCE OF THE WORD: SOME PROLEGOMENA FOR CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS HISTORY (1967), the expanded version of his 1964 Terry Lectures at Yale University, the American Jesuit cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong (1912-2003) perceptively discusses Achebe's novel NO LONGER AT EASE that is worth quoting at length here:
"In his sensitive novel NO LONGER AT EASE, concerned with the acculturation of his native
Yes, Ong here does explicitly characterize the interiorization of literacy and literate modes of thought as delusional systemization, rendering the consciousness of those of us who have interiorized literacy and literate modes of thought schizoid.
Digression: In the posthumously published book THE WAY TO LOVE (1992; reissued Image, 2012), the Jesuit spiritual director from India Anthony de Mello urges us to cultivate awareness in the hope that by cultivating awareness we will eventually be freed from our cultural conditioning and programming. For those of us who have learned through our formal education to be functionally literate, our Western cultural conditioning and programming includes our interiorization of literacy and literate modes of thought. As a result, if we were to undertake to cultivate awareness, as Anthony de Mello urges us to do, we would in effect also be seeking to be freed from the schizoid consciousness that the delusional systemization that our cultural conditioning in literacy and literate modes of thought has engendered in us. But we should also note here that Ong explicitly describes the psyches of people in primary oral cultures as being "overstrained" (his word). As a result of their psyches being overstrained, people in primary oral cultures might welcome the measure of relief to their overstrained psyches that interiorizing literacy and literate modes of thought would give them. However, when we turn our attention to the kind of awareness that Anthony de Mello urges us to undertake, we should note that people in primary oral cultures, and perhaps also certain people in residual forms of primary oral cultures, would have a decided edge in cultivating the mystic awareness that he urges us to cultivate, because they do not have the schizoid consciousness that Ong says accompanies the interiorization of literacy and literate modes of thought. In short, mystic awareness comes more naturally to people in primary oral cultures than it does to us Westerners whose cultural conditioning in the print culture of the West has solidified our schizoid consciousness. End of digression.
In an interview published as "Named for Victoria, Queen of England" in the journal NEW LETTERS, volume 40 (1973): pages 14-22, which is published out of the University of Missouri - Kansas City, Achebe revealed that his own father, who was an Anglican catechist, had served as the real-life model for the elderly man he portrays in the ways that Ong describes above:
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