Notions of Power in Selected Plays of Wole Soyinka and Femi Osofisan.

Ferdinand, N.M (2012)

A Thesis Submitted to the School of Postgraduate Studies, University of Lagos.

Thesis

This study explores power in selected plays of Wole Soyinka and Femi Osofisan, focusing on its social manifestations, use, effects and characters’ responses to its exercise in Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest, Madmen and Specialists, From Zia with Love and The Trials of Brother Jero, as well as in Osofisan’s Morountodun, Another Raft, Once upon Four Robbers and Esu and the Vagabond Minstrels. The study reveals that in spite of ideological differences, Soyinka and Osofisan have remarkably similar conceptions of power that reflect the diverse nature and use of power in the societies portrayed in their plays. Drawing upon the theoretical postulates of post structuralist writers like Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, and Pierre Macherey, the study highlights the negative and positive attributes and deployments of power in the selected plays. Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic tenets are used to characterize the diffusion of power in societies as it is wielded by various characters, ranging from the lowliest to the highest places, based on unconscious forces that inform their actions. Michel Foucault’s analysis of power as a strategy of interiorized discipline provides the framework for examining how the tyrannical deployment of political power by the protagonists of Soyinka’s Madmen and Specialists, Kongi’s Harvest and From Zia with Love precipitates the crises portrayed in the plays. To properly situate Osofisan’s Marxist notion of power as economic ascendancy, Pierre Macherey’s critical methods are employed to interrogate Morountodun and Once Upon Four Robbers. The approaches interpret these texts as ‘products’ that differ remarkably from the ideological raw materials that went into their formulation. Louis Althusser’s thoughts on ideology and ideological apparatuses help to reexamine religious power in the light of received knowledge that wielders of such power are ideologically impelled to abuse it. Another Raft and The Trials of Brother Jero while illustrating the manipulative possibilities in the exercise of religious power by characters, also make clear that such abuses need not be ideologically engrained, but may proceed instead from the personal weaknesses of the individuals at the helm of power. Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault provide the tools that help to deconstruct power distribution in the plays. Instead of a single site of power where only the principal characters are located, several characters are spotlighted at different sites where they exercise some levels of admittedly disproportionate power, in relation to the dominant character. This explains why the minority antagonists of power in the plays are portrayed somewhat sympathetically as protagonists of resistant power, mainly because through them a different perspective or notion of power is provided to counter the abusive trend that dominates the exercise of power in the texts.

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