Sunday, March 27, 2011

Post Colonialism and Intentional Fallacy

“The bane of themes of this genre is that they are no sooner employed creatively than they acquire the facile tag of ‘clash of cultures’, a prejudicial label which, quite apart from its frequent misapplication, presupposes a potential equality in every given situation of the alien culture and the indigenous…” (3) From Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King’s Horseman: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed.: Gikandi, Simon. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2003. In this passage from the author’s note the reader is warned against reading the play through a post-colonial lens because it cheapens the intended message of the play. While this calls into play the concept of intentional fallacy, I think we need to explore this concept more and see what role it actually plays in interpreting text. My point is this: intentional fallacy claims that the author’s intentions when writing a text are deemed irrelevant once the text is complete because the text speaks for itself. I agree, but since the text speaks for itself it is because the author taught it to speak. Therefore , I feel we should heed the warning in the author’s note and ask ourselves not about the relevancy of the text in a post-colonial context, but rather the way the play deals with the universality of death.

1 comment:

  1. Your post makes an interesting point. I think if we ignore the author's intention and read the book simply through a postcolonial lens (which does offer a rich reading, we might end up with a very reductive reading. The postcolonial themes are overbearing--they are impossible to miss. In light of the "Against Theory" article, it's interesting to consider that, as readers, if we only consider what we saw in the text, than we missed a message the author wished to convey to us. But I think it also illustrates a fallacy in the article--that looking for "the meaning of the text" is akin to "looking for the author's meaning." Most readers in class saw the postcolonial theme but struggled to understand Soyinka's mysterious commentary on the "universality of death."