Orality, Literacy, and the White-Man's Learning

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

What does the following passage about the attitudes of the slaveholders tell us about the difference between European and indigenous attitudes towards relation of power and literacy? Would Matthew Arnold, the great critic of Victorian culture, see Ma and Pa Palagada and their friends as essentially alike, or essentially different from, the English ruling classes?

They had gone on talking about their children and they all agreed that they were indeed blessed by the good Lord to have such a handsome son and beautiful daughters. They admitted that their son could not make head or tail of the new white man's learning, but what did he need such learning for? Such learning was for slaves, not the sons and daughters of real rich human beings like themselves. [ch 8 91]

Postcolonial Web Africa OV Nigeria OV Emecheta OV