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Soyinka's Bacchae: reading tragedy in postcolonial modernity

Lecznar, AE; (2014) Soyinka's Bacchae: reading tragedy in postcolonial modernity. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis focuses on The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite, a reception of the ancient Greek tragedy Euripides’ Bacchae by the Nobel Prize winning Nigerian playwright, poet and social critic Wole Soyinka. It will argue that Soyinka’s Bacchae sits at the intersection of Western and African intellectual traditions; the text brings Soyinka’s Nigerian and black African identity into a dialogue with the European intellectual tradition of engagement with ancient Greek tragedy. The tragic texts of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides have been, and remain, central to the literary canon of Graeco-Roman antiquity. These tragedies have been put to very different uses throughout their rich reception history: in the colonial context they functioned as part of a European narrative of cultural hegemony, while postcolonial authors have used them as weapons of resistance to destabilize those very same narratives and to form new identities beyond the shadow of colonialism. Both the circumstances of its genesis and the intellectual influences that Soyinka incorporates into the play make his Bacchae a paradigmatic example of how these historical processes can overlap. Firstly, Soyinka was commissioned to write his tragic reception by the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, a European theatre company. Secondly, he explicitly cites the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, whose arguments about Dionysus would inform many European responses to Euripides’ text and tragedy more generally. This thesis argues that postcolonial receptions of ancient Greek tragedy should not just be studied as an uncomplicated expression of non-European perspectives. Cultural multiplicity marks every stage of Soyinka’s Bacchae, and the text draws on and creatively transforms intellectual and artistic debates that span global geographical, cultural and ethnic traditions. By exploring this text and its cultural and intellectual contexts, this thesis will illuminate the intricate cross-cultural dialogues that become apparent when tragedy is read in postcolonial modernity.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Soyinka's Bacchae: reading tragedy in postcolonial modernity
Language: English
Additional information: Permission for digitisation not received.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1418769
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