A Dance of the Forests Essay - Critical Essays

Wole Soyinka

Critical Context

In Myth, Literature, and the African World (1976), Soyinka makes a distinction between the European and African literary experience. The European experience consists of a series of literary ideologies: allegory, neoclassicism, realism, naturalism, surrealism, absurdism, constructivism, and so forth. The African experience, on the other hand, while not without ideological concepts, concerns mainly the discovery of universal truths. In contrast to the European idea of literature as having an objective existence, African literature, Soyinka explains, remains integrated with traditional values, social vision, and collective experience. It is “far more preoccupied with visionary projection of society than with speculative projections of the nature of literature, or of any other medium of expression.” By social vision in literature Soyinka means a concern to reveal social realities beyond immediate, conventional boundaries, a concern to free society from historical presuppositions and replace them with the writer’s idealistic and pragmatic ordering of human experience.

One of Soyinka’s main concerns is the question of when (and whether) ritual can become drama—whether a mythic or religious celebration can be transformed into a work for the stage, and whether the actors and the audience can actually relive the revelation of a ritual experience. Soyinka believes that the audience is integral to the arena of dramatic conflict because it supplies...

(The entire section is 489 words.)