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Title:'The purest mode of looking': (post)colonial trauma in Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman
Author:Barnaby, Andrew
Periodical:Research in African literatures
Geographic term:Nigeria
About person:Wole Soyinka (1934-)
External links:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/research_in_african_literatures/v045/45.1.barnaby.pdf
Abstract:The starting point of this essay is Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka's (in)famous claim concerning his 1975 play Death and the King's Horseman, that the 'Colonial Factor is … a catalytic incident merely.' Since that assertion appears to be at odds with the central movement of the play, almost to the point of missing a truth that simply cannot be missed, the essay aims to address a question first posed by Anthony Appiah, 'why [does] Soyinka feel the need to conceal his purposes?' The focal point of the answer will be Freud's notion of Nachträglichkeit ('deferred action'). Through an extended rhetorical analysis of the play, the essay details how the subject of colonization can be understood as the subject of trauma precisely to the extent that the experience of colonization entails an originary missing of the event itself. The essay's final section explores how such a missing yet offers an ethical opportunity, the bearing witness to what it means not to see. It concludes that the rhetorical uncanniness of Death and the King's Horseman is revealed precisely in how it represents this very impossibility of confrontation, not the pseudo-confrontation of that facile 'clash of cultures' that Soyinka is right to dismiss, but the impossibility of confronting what is incomprehensible in colonialism itself. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract, edited]