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316Comparative Drama seasonal-mythopoetic significance that the play is set at the autumnal equinox, the triadic structure and imagery of the play—three acts, three women, three nurseries, three changes of scene, three falls from the tower, and so on). He sees the plays less as poetic structures taking shape as theatrical art and more as ambitious ideological stratagems, but at least his interpretations are never reductive. While many of his claims do seem to inflate the text's ideological ambitions, he amply compensates by passages of breathtaking and sensitive analysis. This is the best book on Ibsen I have read in years, and to do it justice in a review would require many more pages. BRIAN JOHNSTON Carnegie Mellon University John Conteh-Morgan. Theatre and Drama in Francophone Africa: A Critical Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Pp. xii + 243. $59.95. Despite the richness of the corpus of theatrical and dramatic works of Francophone Africa, critical attention to the genre has been parsimonious . John Conteh-Morgan's Theatre and Drama in Francophone Africa (1994), the first book-length study to focus entirely on the subject , traces the history of Francophone African drama from its traditional roots to the present and identifies the principal themes that subtend the works. The book is divided into two main parts, the first of which treats "Theoretical and Historical Studies" while the second is a close analysis of selected plays by representative playwrights from Francophone Africa south of the Sahara and of two plays by Aimé Césaire. The inclusion of plays by a Caribbean playwright in the study is justified both by their relevance to the post-independence African political realities and Césaire's impact on the development of French-African drama. In the first chapter, which attempts to "situate modern French African language drama in a context of preexisting traditions" (36), ContehMorgan argues that "Social ritual" (role play in daily social intercourse), "ritual performances" (e.g., rites of passage, marriage ceremonies, death celebrations), and oral literature have contributed enormously to the vitality of drama in the region on account of their theatrical nature. The influence of these aspects of traditional culture on modern plays is noticeable at the thematic and structural levels. Citing very salient examples, he convincingly demonstrates that many features of this drama (e.g., narrative techniques, language, plot structure, characterization , tone) bear the "imprint" of traditional rituals and oral narratives. Francophone drama, the author notes, is very secular. This secularist slant is a legacy of French colonialism and the penetration of Islam, since both phenomena had a considerable impact on African traditions Reviews317 and the peoples' world view. Thus in his discussion of the relationship between ritual and modern Francophone drama he takes issue with WoIe Soyinka, who locates the difference between Western drama and African ritual in vision. For Soyinka African ritual has a "cosmic" outlook, while Western drama is steeped in "secular" concerns. Conteh-Morgan points out that Soyinka's argument is not only untenable but contradictory since it smacks of the Senghorian dichotomy between Africa and the West of which he has been very critical. Despite its debt to ritual, the outlook of contemporary French African drama is "naturalistic and not supernaturalistic" (26). In fact, Francophone African drama is much more preoccupied with the articulation of contemporary social and political realities than with cosmic problems. The second chapter, "From Oral Performance to Modern Drama," presents a discussion of the "growth and development" of modern French African drama. Conteh-Morgan points out that the following factors enhanced the process: (1) The study and performance of French plays in schools and the encouragement of dramatic creativity through the "devoir de vacances" (holiday assignments), which gave rise to the Ponty School theater. Although the plays were highly censored, their performance was very instrumental in the emergence of Francophone literary drama. (2) French Cultural Centers. (3) The establishment of the French Office de la Coopération Radiophonique and (4) the World Festivals of Negro Arts (55-56). He also draws attention to some of the problems faced by contemporary Francophone African theater, notably the desperate lack of adequate infrastructure and government control. The excessive dependence of Francophone...


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pp. 316-319
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