Post–Colonialism And Literary Aesthetics (A Study Of Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman And A Dance Of The Forests)

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Post–Colonialism And Literary Aesthetics (A Study Of Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman And A Dance Of The Forests)


Post-colonialism and Literary aesthetics are integral aspect of literature which has contributed immensely to the development of African’s culture by combating the residual effect of colonialism on African’s culture and in turn reviving it. This work examines magical realism as a concept under post-colonial theory as portrayed in Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and A Dance of the Forests, which in turn helps to project the African’s culture through the use of myth, ritual, songs, dance, chants, incantation and invocations which are aesthetics under magical realism and symbols of African’s culture. This research emphasizes the fact that aesthetics are not just in a work of art; they are there for a purpose such as elevating African’s culture which is the sole aim of the research. In conclusion, the goal of post-colonialism therefore is reviving African’s culture through the use of aesthetics.

Chapter One

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background Of The Study

Post-colonialism (post-colonial theory) and Literary aesthetics are important aspect of literature. This is because post-colonialism has devoted considerable attention to excavating the marginalized past. Likewise, literary aesthetics cannot be excluded from a work of art because of its usefulness in African poetry, prose and drama as raw materials and often as an essential medium of expression.

Post-colonialism cannot stand alone, it will be lifeless without literary aesthetics, because both works hand-in-hand to project and revive the dying African culture, traditions, customs and values. Post-colonialism as a literary theory with a critical approach deals with literature produced in countries that once were colonies of other countries especially of European colonial power Britain, France and Spain.

Furthermore, post colonialism deals with cultural identity in colonized societies; the dilemmas of developing national identity.

Critical Perspectives Of Scholars On The Definitions Of Postcolonialism

According to Osofisan (1999) post-colonialism is a return to the past to the trenches of Negritude whereas our identity crisis in Africa is of a different order entirely, relating to two urgent problems – first, the dilemma of creating a national identity out of our disparate ethnic communities and secondly, that of creating committed, responsible, patriotic and compassionate individual out of our civil population (p. 6)

Gilbert and Tompkins as cited by Osofisan (1999) argues that post-colonialism is an engagement with a contestation of colonialism discourses, power structures and social hierarchies (p. 2)

Goring et al as cited by Olaniyan et al (2007) asserts that post-colonialism is a label that can be used in a relatively neutral descriptive sense to refer to literature emanating from or dealing with peoples and cultures of lands which emerged from colonial rule (normally but not always, relatively recently) but it can also be used to imply a body of theory or an attitude towards that which is studied (p. 412-500).

According to Tiffin (1988) Postcolonial has been used to describe writing and reading practices grounded in some form of colonial experience occurring outside Europe but as a consequence of European expansion into and exploitation of “the other” worlds.p.170

Gugelberger as cited by Olaniyan et al (2007) claims of post-colonialism studies that, it is not a discipline but a distinctive problematic discourse that can be described as an abstract combination of all problems inherent in such newly emergent field as minority discourse, Latin American studies, African Studies Caribbean Studies. (p. 412-500)

Characteristics Of Post-Colonialism

An awareness of representations of non – European as exotic or immoral “other”.

An awareness of the tainted nature of the colonizers’ structures. An awareness of the double natures of identity of both colonizer and colonized. An awareness of cross – cultural interactions as demonstrated in the three stages.

  1. Adopt European form and subject matter (similar to the feminine stage in feminism)
  2. Adapt European form to African subject matter(similar to the feminist stage in feminism)
  3. Adept or independent form and subject matter(similar to the female stage in feminism)

The three current concerns in post – colonial theory which venture into this territory and open it up to fruitful analytic debate are notion of hybridity, ethnicity and cultural location.


Hybridity occurs in post-colonial societies both as a result of conscious movement of cultural suppression, as when the colonial power invades to consolidate political and economic control, when settler-invaders disposes indigenous peoples and forces them to “assimilates” new social patterns of immigration from metropolitan societies and from other imperial areas of influence i.e. continue to produce complex cultural palimpsest with the post colonial world.


This is the construction of the positive identity of being “black” and as such this concept of blackness was primarily based on physical features and characteristics as a marker of identity. Useful as this may have been to the political struggles against racism and colonialism, It tends to homogenize and universalize the experience of all black people and to deny that there are a multitude of diverse culture within the ‘black’ community.


This is the analysis of the social, cultural, religious and linguistics process which constitute a cultural identity regardless of the specific location in which these occur. The concern with the non – geographic aspects of cultural location results in a more sophisticated analysis of political struggle against racism and colonialism and takes into account both the migration of the diaspora communities and their interaction.

Post Colonialism And The African Drama

The ultimate goal of post colonialism (post-colonial theory) in African drama is combating the residual effect of colonialism on culture. It is not really concerned with salvaging past worlds but learning how the world can move beyond this period together towards a place of mutual respects, An example of this is found in Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman.

Post – colonial theory has sought to challenge the grand march of western historicism with its entourage (self-other, metropolis-colony, center periphery etc. in African drama. The key goal of post – colonial theory in African drama is clearing space for a multiple voices that have being previously silenced by dominant ideologies – subalterns.

Post-colonialism (post-colonial theory aims at decolonizing the future. The critical nature of post-colonial theory in African drama entails creating space for the subalterns marginalized groups, speak and produce alternative to dominant discourse.

During the first phase of post – colonialism, national political and cultural liberation was the goal, during the second phase cultural liberation was the goal, during the third phase cultural and economic liberation became the ideal for groups and movement within and across national boundaries including black nationalism, feminism and recent immigrant, each of which claimed its own literature.

Concepts Under Post Colonial Theory

The stages of being other or different, the political, cultural linguistics, or religious other. The study of the ways in which one group makes themselves different from others.


The essence or “worthness” of something in the context of race, ethnicity or culture, essentialism suggests the practice of various groups deciding what is and is not a particular identity. As a practice, essentialism tends to overlook differences within groups often to maintain the status quo or obtain power. Essentialist claims can be used by a colonizing power but also by the colonized as a way of resisting what is claimed about them.

Magical realism:

The adaptation of western realist methods of literature in describing the imaginary life of indigenous cultures that experience the mythical, magical, and supernatural in a decidedly different fashion from western ones. A weaving together elements we tend to associate with the European realism and elements we associates with the fabulous, where there two world undergo a “closeness or near merging”.


The process by which a cultural practice is made stimulating and exiting in its difference from the colonizer’s normal perspective. Ironically, as European groups educated local, indigenous cultures, school children often begin to see their native life ways, plants and animals as exotic and the European counter parts as normal or typical.


The power of the ruling class to convince other classes that their interests are the interest of all, often not only through means of economic and political control but more subtly through the control of education and media.


New transcultural form that arise from cross – cultural exchange. Hybridity can be social, political, linguistic, religious etc. it is not necessarily a peaceful mixture for it can be contentious and disruptive in its experience.


The mapping of global space in the context of colonialism was as much prescriptive as it was descriptive. Maps were used to establish claims. Maps claim the boundaries of a nation.


(“grand narratives”. “master narratives”) a large cultural story that seeks to explain within its borders all the little, local narratives. A Metanarrative claims to be a big truth concerning the world and the way it works. Some charge that all Metanarratives are inherently oppressive because they decide whether other narratives are allowed or not.


The means by which the colonized adapts the culture (language, education, clothing, etc) of the colonizer but always in the process changing it in important ways. Such an approach always contains it in the ambivalence of hybridity.


The division and classification of human beings by physical and biological characteristics. Race often is used by various groups to either maintain power or to stress solidarity. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was often used as a pretext by European colonial powers for slavery and or the “white man’s burden”.

Concepts And Definitions Of Aesthetics

Aesthetics, according to the Hamlyn Encyclopedic Dictionary is recognized as a science in philosophy and its stands for that which “deduces from natures taste and rules and principles; the science of the beautiful…” and in psychology aesthetic is seen as “the study of the mind and emotions in relations to the sense of beauty even if nothing else rings a bell about aesthetics from both philosophy and psychology, one does namely, that aesthetics has to do with the beautiful.

According to Akpan and Etuk as cited by Johnson (2004) aesthetics experiences are usually obtained from enjoying work of art… we very easily and naturally tie our aesthetics experiences to work of art which are man-made object”. Aesthetics is also concern with moral or ethnical judgment of human behaviour. Aesthetics involves every aspects of human social life in relation to the work of art p.19-28.

The aesthetics (literary aesthetics) tend to beautify works of art because aesthetics is all about beauty and the study and appreciation of beauty whether in art or in nature. But even though the concern with beauty is so pervasive, we seems to pay very little attention to it in a way that would impact affirmatively on the way we do things and practically on our environment. A writer writes in vacuum without the use of literary aesthetics in his work of art.

Post-colonialism and literary aesthetics are used in contemporary African drama text to project African culture, its beauty and origin.

1.2 Purpose Of The Study

This research work aims at examining magical realism as an aesthetic concept under post-colonialism (post-colonial theory) as portrayed in soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horse man and A Dance of the Forests.

The work also aims at discussing the importance of this magical realism as an aesthetic concept in the chosen text.

1.3 Justification

This research work justified the fact that the beauty of a work of art lies in its use of literary aesthetics, how it is arrived at is also worth examining. This research work is embarked upon because no research of this form to the researcher’s knowledge is particularly centered on magical realism as a post-colonial concept using the two texts: Death and the king’s Horseman and A Dance of the Forests.

During the course of the research, other relevant information the researcher came in contact with includes Ogundele (1994) which examines myth and rites in Soyinka’s

Death and the King’s Horse man, Ibrahim (2008) which examines aesthetics in Death and the King’s Horse man, Lindfors (1973) which examines the folklore in Soyinka’s A Dance of the forests

1.4 Scope And Limitation

The research will be limited to the concept and definition of post-colonialism (post-colonial theory and literary aesthetics and the critical perspectives of scholars on the definition of post-colonialism and literary aesthetics. The goals of post-colonialism (post-colonial theory) and literary aesthetics in Africa drama is also part of the research work. Magical realism as a concept under post-colonial theory and literary aesthetics as portrayed in Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and A Dance of the Forests and its aesthetics value is also an important aspect of the research work.

1.5 Methodology

The theoretical approach of this research work is post- colonialism (Post-colonial theory) the reason is because post-colonial theory combats the residual effect of colonialism on African’s culture. Out of all the concepts under post-colonial theory, the concept adopted in this project is magical realism which is an aesthetic similar to the two books used, Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman and A Dance of the Forests.

Magical realism is the adaptation of western realist methods of literature in describing the imaginary life of indigenous culture that experience the different fashion from western ones. A weaving together element we tend to associate with European realism and elements we associate with the fabulous where these two worlds undergo a “closeness or near merging”.

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