The theatre of promiscuity : a comparative study of the dramatic writings of Wole Soyinka and Howard Barker
The word 'artist serves as a pivot to the major concerns of this study. Consideration of its application and meaning in relation to contemporary society facilitates a detailed exploration and analysis of selected dramatic writings by Wole Soyinka and Howard Barker. The comparative nature of this work begins by charting the parallel journeys of these writers - within widely differing cultural contexts - from a critique of social determinations which serve to define and bound authorial intent to a process of "promiscuous" self-definition whereby the artistic imagination is used to name and designate a specific relationship to the cultural and social structures within which their work will be received. Working from a theoretical base which, in the case of Soyinka, finds its foundations in critique and commentary upon nationalist discourse, and in the case of Barker, rests upon contemporary critiques of Enlightenment reason, the study debates their development of theatrical form within both social and cultural contexts. Emphasis is placed upon the relationship of the author to the dramatic text, the creation of character and the defined channels of communication through which dramatic performance is to be received by the spectator. The concept of 'transgression' is explored as a key principle by which to define the 'theatrical' as opposed to the 'social' text. Chapters Four and Five link the work of Howard Barker and Wole Soyinka through the application of Nietzschean philosophy, with especial emphasis being placed upon the concept of genealogical history, the creation of the aesthetic, and the consideration of 'tragedy' as a means by which to offer resistant critique to the social imperative of national citizenship as a badge and boundary to identity. The formation of the 'tragic' or 'catastrophic' individual is explored through key dramatic texts, thus allowing dramatic form the status of a discourse in its own right. Throughout the study an attempt is made to develop an argument which allows the artist to be distinguished as one who speaks to his nation, rather than for his nation. With regard to the work of Barker and Soyinka this has involved both the exposure and exploration of a theatrical space unmapped by social cartography, and a peopling of the stage with creations who could be described as 'ethical' rather than 'political' individuals.