Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Death and the King's Horseman"

Thomas and I seem to have differing opinions. Perhaps partly because of its generic title, Eldred Durosimi Jones's "Death and the King's Horseman" does not strike me as particularly profound criticism of Wole Soyinka's play of the same name. As far as I can tell, Jones's thesis is this: "The play examines the Elesin's response when the actual call for which his whole life has been a preparation, and on which the future of his people depend [sic], sounds in his ears" (Gikandi 151). In addition to the fact that "depend" does not seem to agree grammatically, this sentence is cumbersome (re: unnecessarily disrupted) and, on top of that, holds no critical value; by this latter point, I mean to say that the thesis is not argumentative, but descriptive. If this is not supposed to be the thesis, or main point, then Jones definitely "buried his lead." If it IS supposed to be the thesis, it is not a typical "academic" thesis, the kind we are used to as English majors/minors (re: argumentative).

As for the rest of Jones's essay, it is mostly a summary of the play itself, with few arguments or explanations of quotations that I can see. When Jones gives a quote, as far as I can tell/remember, he does not explain it except by using more summary of what happens AFTER the quoted passage. This over-summarizing becomes especially frustrating on page 153, where Jones gives a long quote, and then goes on to tell what happens afterward. While the information Jones DOES supply after such a quote is important to the story of the play, it does not show an especially deep connection with the text, a connection that is an essential aspect of literary/cultural criticism. Thus, while Jones offers a good summary of the play, and is able to bring the cultural beliefs/aspects of the play to the foreground, he does so with such subtlety that I cannot find any argument; to me, it seems there is (nearly) nothing but summary. I am slightly disappointed with the essay, then, because I prefer my theses/arguments to be not only developed but CLEAR.

Did anyone else have this reaction? Maybe I am alone on this one. In any case, I didn't feel like I "walked away" from this essay with any new information.

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