This study has been embarked upon to present the politics and
aesthetics in selected plays of Wole Soyinka paying much attention to
his The Beatification of Area Boy and Kongi’s Harvest. The study has
been able to extract and discuss the ways in which Wole Soyinka applied
cultural artifacts to political issues to depict the happenings in his
immediate society. The sociological approach has been used in respect to
the Marxist theory. The study has conclusively pointed to the fact that
the society can only be changed positively if everyone is ready to make
huge sacrifices to realize positive changes.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1 Politics and aesthetics
1.2 Purpose of the study
1.3 Scope of the study
1.4 Justification of the study
1.5.1 Sociology of literature
1.5.2 A Review of Marxist theory
1.6 Research question
1.7 Research hypothesis
1.8 Biography of Wole Soyinka
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Review of related plays of Soyinka
Politics and aesthetics in The Beatification Of Area Boy
3.1 The military and the area boys
3.2 Allusions as aesthetic device
3.3 Songs as aesthetic essence in the play
3.4 Ogun mythology
3.5 Political setting
3.6 Sexual imagery
- Literary and political issues in Kongi’s Harvest
4.1 The politics of tribal allegiance
4.2 The politics of intimidation, oppression and torture
4.3 Imagery in Kongi’s Harvest
CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY, FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION
POLITICS AND AESTHETICS
According to Leftwich (1983) politics consists of all the activities
of cooperation and conflict within and between societies, whereby the
human species go about obtaining, using, producing and distributing
resources in the course of the production and reproduction of its social
and political life.
Politics in this sense therefore enables the writer to examine the
problems which occur within or between societies, institutions or
groups, whether it is unemployment, war, famine, disease, overcrowding
or various forms of conflict. Writers are members of the society and
they make it a point of duty to write on all these political problems in
the Society and suggest viable solutions to these problems.
Politics as can be defined by the Webster’s dictionary is the art and
science of the government of a state opinions, principles or policies
by which a person orders his participation in such affairs.
Aesthetics can also be defined as the formal study of art especially
relating to the enjoyment or study of beauty. The term aesthetics can
also be defined as the description of an object or a work of art that
shows great beauty.
Geoffrey Poton also throws light on what the concept of politics is.
He opines that politics is the way in which we understand and order our
social affairs especially in relation to the allocation of scarce
resources, the principle underlying this, and the means by which some
people or groups acquire and maintain a greater control over the
situation than others. Going by this definition, one sees that politics
is above all a social activity that is concerned with people’s social
and material relationships. It is varied in expression in different
spatial areas and continually changing through time.
Therefore writers employ the concept of politics as part of the
models or mental framework through which the writer interpret and try to
understand their environment and world around them. Aesthetics is
concerned with the beauty, arts, and the understanding of beautiful
Obafemi (2008) says “aesthetics deals with any art form and
theatrical arts in particular which is a corporate multi-dimensional,
multi-sensory art that depends on its social context and its audience”.
This implies the sociology of the context and the other material
imperatives of culture in the historical development of the country from
the beginning to the present. Aesthetics can also be defined as the
formal study of art especially relating to the enjoyment or study of
Politics and aesthetics in selected plays of Wole Soyinka can be
viewed can be viewed to be the ways and tools Soyinka uses to beautify
the plays in relation to political issues in each play.
Every writer exists within a society and as a member of such society, he preoccupies himself with issues that arise within it.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study is to examine the way wole Soyinka applied
cultural artifacts to political issues to depict the happenings in his
immediate society. This project will evaluate and underscore the ways in
which political issues are exemplified in the plays.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This project is limited to two of Wole Soyinka’s plays namely The Beatification of Area boy and Kongi’s harvest. Politics
and aesthetics in selected plays of Wole Soyinka aim at finding out
certain aesthetic tools that were used by the playwright to portray
politics in the selected plays in relation to the society. This research
will also focus on the ways these tools were used by the playwright and
how the playwright achieves his goal of portraying to the readers how
politics in the plays is a mirror of the happenings in his society.
JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
This study seeks to look into the politics and aesthetics used in the
selected plays of Wole Soyinka in relation to Nigeria and Africa as a
whole. Previous works have attempted to focus on the political and
aesthetic tools used in the works of other playwrights but this study
will attempt to pay a critical attention to the aesthetics used in
Soyinka’s The Beatification of Area Boy and Kongi’s Harvest in other to pass the message of good governance and equity in the society.
This study will employ a textual analysis of both plays putting into
consideration the military, the masses, traditional rulers, literary
devices and elements. The data consists of critical and primary sources
from the library and the internet. Marxism under sociological theory is
SOCIOLOGY OF LITERATURE
The term ‘sociology of literature’ was coined by Taine, the French
philosopher and critic. The desire to develop a completely scientific
outlook, to submit literature and art to the same research methods as
those employed in the physical and natural sciences, led to the founding
of this relatively new field of literary study.
Sociology is the science of social relationships as well as the
consequences of those relationships for ongoing social systems and the
process of social change. Sociology concerns itself with all that
happens to human beings as a result of their relations to each other.
Sociology deals with the world of man’s experience- man behaviour with
regard to his fellows, but its main focus is the group or its larger
social entity. To sociology man, man’s existence is in essence, social;
his life is bound up with various groups which encompass the social
group called society. The goal of sociology is to understand the society
through scientific means. Thus it sets itself the task of finding
solutions to question of how society is possible, how it works, why it
persists. This is achieved through a rigorous examination of the social
institutions, religious, economic, political and filial.
Sociology attempts to present a picture of the mechanisms of
socialisation, the process of cultural learning, whereby individuals are
allocated to accept their respective roles in the social structure.
Bisi Ogunsina (2006) quotes Christopher Caudwell thus ’at one time
men are doing different things and therefore stand in relation to one
another. The study of these human relations in general form is
But sociology is more than the mere study of human relations, it is
also concerned with the process of change with the society; that is, how
society changes gradually or radically from one to another and the
effects these changes have on the social structure.
For the purpose of this study, the Marxist approach in sociology will
be used in analysing politics and aesthetics in Wole Soyinka’s plays.
1.5.2 A REVIEW OF MARXIST THEORY
Marxist literary criticism has a fairly long history. This is because
Karl Marx himself made important general statements about culture and
society in the 1840s. In spite of this fact it is not erroneous to think
of Marxist criticism as a twentieth century phenomenon.
The Marxist literary approach derives from the ideas and thought of
Karl Marx and Fredric Engels, published in ‘the communist manifesto’. In
their writings Marx and Engels argue that the history of man is the
history of class struggle. it is their contention that the main goal of
man’s struggle is to liberate himself from certain forms of oppression.
Terry Eagleton elaborates on this struggle for liberation ‘Marxism is
a scientific theory of human societies and of the practice of
transforming them: and what that means, rather more concretely, is what
the narrative Marxism has to deliver is the story of the struggles of
men and women to free themselves from certain forms of exploitation and
Thus the main message of Marxism is the struggle for the
transformation of the human society, so that man can be liberated from
exploitation and oppression in all its forms and ramifications.
What are the aesthetic tools employed by Wole Soyinka to portray politics relatively to his The Beatification of Area Boy and Kongi’s Harvest
Cultural artifacts are more paramount in most works of Wole Soyinka’s works.
BIOGRAPHY OF WOLE SOYINKA
Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka is a dramatist, poet, novelist,
literary critic, theatre director and sometime actor; a political
activist per excellence; the first black Nobel Prize literature winner
for literature; and arguably the prolific and most distinguished African
writer writing in the English language. Four rather untraditional
biographies to date (one political, three literary) conveniently
introduce the reader to the author’s cultural background and strong
political commitments. Born in colonial Nigeria of Christian well
educated Nigerian parentage, wole Soyinka was born on the 13th of July
1934, in Abeokuta, Ogun state. He received his secondary education in
Ibadan. From 1952-1954, he attended the University college of Ibadan and
later proceeded to Leeds, England, where he obtained an honours degree
Soyinka has written much of plays compared to volumes of poetry and
novels. He has many plays to his credit. Among these plays are: Cam wood
on the leaves(1956), A Dance of the Forest(1960), The Swamp
Dwellers, The Trials of Brother Jero, The Strong Breed(1969), The
Road(1965), Kongi’s Harvest(1967), Madman and Specialists(1971), A Play
of Giants(1984) and many others.