Literature And Ecology: A Study Of Wole Soyinka’s A Dance Of The Forests And The Beatification Of An Area Boy

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Literature And Ecology: A Study Of Wole Soyinka’s A Dance Of The Forests And The Beatification Of An Area Boy


Abstract


The current crisis of ecology and environmental pollution have gripped the attention and aroused the concern of many people alive today. Studies show that our imprudent behaviour towards, and utilisation of, Nature have pushed the world into a crisis that has not only led to the gradual destruction of our ecology and its very capacity to sustain life, but also threatens our survival. There is also the socio-economic and psychological dimension to the crisis. Many countries and organisations have endeavoured to prevent the further spread of the ecological crisis but in spite of all efforts, the ecological crisis continues to mount. This realisation has prompted scholars in various disciplines to open up ecological/environmental dimensions to their respective disciplines as a way of contributing to environmental restoration. Literary scholars have also joined the debate through the field of ecocriticism. This study attempts to explore the ways in which Soyinka participates and responds to the current ecological challenges.

Using ecocriticism as a theoretical tool, the study contends that Soyinka’s philosophy which informs his literary works is Nature sensitive and attempts to address the basic presupposition at the roots of the ecological crisis. The study reveals that the current ecological crisis is a disturbing manifestation of the dangers inherent in a change in the structure of the relationship between man and Nature which currently assumes that humans are separate from Nature. Through his literary works, we get to see an alternative worldview which shows that man exists in a cosmic totality and is a part of Nature. The study also suggests that a consciousness of this fact enables us to live in greater peace and harmony with Nature; thus the call for a reassessment of some of the basic premises upon which our current practices are grounded.


Chapter One


Introduction

Preamble

Humans all over the world who have the privilege of witnessing the modern era are inheritors of a magnificent history. The period marks not only the economic ascent of some third world countries but also ecological disorder and violent processes of change that challenge humans at every level imaginable. The 20th/21st century man is the recipient of the legacy of industrialization and the subsequent modernity. Although extraordinary and important advances have been made through the age of industrialization, the accompanying changes in our lifestyles and social circumstances beyond doubt have led to significant changes in our outlook and understanding of ourselves in relation to the world which we inhabit. The prevailing outlook of the world especially after the age of industrialization is to perceive humans as somehow apart from ‘Nature’, as isolated individuals and discrete entities. This profound detachment from our surroundings has led to ecological crisis which is one of the greatest global problems of our time.

The issue of ecology has therefore come to play a central intellectual role in our present age. It refers to the study of the relationships between humans, animals, plants and their setting. This relationship affirms the premise that people and the planet are interrelated. Unarguable however, ecological crisis is one of the most pressing and timely concerns at the turn of the 21st century. The word ‘environment’, in the light of our argument, adds a human dimension to the idea of ecology. It brings out the particular interaction of the human being with his or her habitat defined as the life sustaining surroundings that are given to the people and that are partially the result of their labour. Today the earth is experiencing a lot of ecological problems and it appears that the current ecological crisis is a reflection of man’s relationship with the natural world.


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