Writing Within:
The Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka and Breyten Breytenbach

by

Mark L. Lilleleht

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts
(African Languages and Literature)

at the

University of Wisconsin-Madison
1998

Abstract

As governments throughout the world continue to arrest and imprison authors, a growing body of literary works about the experience of detention has emerged. Two of the most outstanding and harrowing examples of such works from the African continent are by the Nigerian, Wole Soyinka (The Man Died) and the South African, Breyten Breytenbach (The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist). The writings of Frantz Fanon and Walter Pater provide the theoretical basis for a discussion of the role that the artistic process plays in Soyinka's and Breytenbach's texts. Rather than either being solely a chronicle of extraordinary injustice, both men understand their plights to be reflective of larger processes at work on a societal-wide basis. Each man looks to the process of writing as one means of maintaining a certain degree of control and sanity in an environment specifically designed to deprive them of all control. The critical investigation of these works thus engages not only the question of the conditions of their imprisonment but also the ways in which the authors harness their creative impulses to mediate the stresses of the prison cell.


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