Politics and poetics in the drama of Salāḥ 'Abd al-Sabūr and Wole Soyinka
Shalaby, Mahmoud Moustafa
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The originality of this study stems primarily from its comparative nature, with its substantive focus on the Egyptian playwright Salāḥ 'Abd al-Sabūr who wrote in Arabic and the Nigerian dramatist, Wole Soyinka (1934), writing in English. It thus attempts to address a gap in comparative research which has so far been largely confined to comparative studies of either Western writers and African counterparts or Western writers and Arab counterparts, but rarely combined Arab and African writers. This thesis investigates selected dramatic works of the two playwrights seeking to reveal the various manifestations of poetics and politics in their drama. The aim is to find the theatrical connection between the two dramatists, a connection that could shed more light on the aesthetics of their drama and the sources of influence on them. My main concern has been, firstly, to explore Nietzsche’s influence on their drama; secondly, to analyse the dynamic relationship between their dramatic content and the local cultural and political environment of Egypt and Nigeria; and thirdly, to examine the use of history as a means of addressing contemporary issues. The first chapter is a discussion of Soyink ’s The Bacchae of Euripides. It investigates the impact of Nietzsche’s ideas, particularly those voiced in The Birth of Tragedy (1872), on Soyink ’s critic and dramatic perspectives. In the second chapter 'Abd al-Sabūr' Night Traveller is discussed. In this chapter I attempt to explore how the Egyptian playwright presente Nietzsche’s theological ideas in dramatic form. I also attempt to show how ʻAbd al-Sabūr adapted Nietzsche’s concepts to fit in with the aesthetics of modern drama in Egyptian culture. Chapter Three examines the use of religion in their drama. Religion features as an important source which afforded both ʻAbd al-Sabūr and Soyinka sufficient material for rituals, symbols, allusions, metaphors and language. In Chapter Four, the dramatists’ views and use of history is explored. The value of history and its intricate relationship to aesthetics in drama is discussed within the frame of modernism and in the light of Nietzsche’s controversial ideas of history. Chapter Five examines the interrelation between politics and poetics in the theatre of the two dramatists. It presents an attempt at a postcolonial reading of selected plays. Chapter Six explores the image, role and dilemma of the intellectual. The role assigned to this figure is important in understanding their view of theatre and its function in society. The thesis finally argues that both 'Abd al-Sabūr and Soyinka established a theatre that was based on syncretism of indigenous traditions and foreign influence. Their dramatic works tackle local issues in theatrical forms that are not necessarily indigenous. While ʻAbd al-Sabūr' drama was highly literary and its theatricality was not obviously compelling, Soyink ’s possessed theatrical elements that made their performance vividly interesting for audiences.