Ritual form and mythologization of death in Wole Soyinka’s ‘Procession’

  • Olufemi Ibukun Dunmande University of Ilorin, Nigeira


Critics make a large claim that Wole Soyinka mythologizes death and deploys ritual form in his dramatic works but hardly account for the same in this light regarding his poetry, especially “Procession”, a sequence which bears so many marks of this style. Critics of “Procession” discount a lot from its richness in mythological and ritual forms but focus more on its topical, social and political nature. The trend in the criticism of the sequence is obviously informed by the historical and political context of the sequence and its inclusion in A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972), a collection on Soyinka’s prison experience. This approach to “Procession” detracts from the art in the sequence, fails to appreciate fully the poetry’s formal properties and so the poetry requires a close reading. Formalism is applied to study the poem and the study stresses the analysis of the work as a self-sufficient verbal entity, constituted by internal relations and independent of reference either to the state of mind of Soyinka or the actualities of the ‘external’ world. The approach highlights in a fresh manner the elements which the earlier criticism the poetry stresses to reveal Soyinka’s mythologization of death and preoccupation with ritual forms in “Procession”. The study reveals that Soyinka is not just preoccupied with political imprison- ment and judicial death but mythologizes the experience and treats rites de passage. It shows further the breadth with which the poet accentuates the esoteric theme through his by deployment of devices such as symbols, the motifs of passage, biblical allusion, pathetic fallacy, pun, incantatory rhythm, paradox, irony and humour. Keywords: ritual, death, formalism, mythology, passage.

Research articles