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The research effort was a study of the use of literary drama as a medium of social revolution and re-awakening using Wole Soyinka’s The Jero Plays, and Uwemedimo Atakpo’s Ken Saro Wiwa -N- The Niger Delta Trials as case studies. It focused on how the arts of the dramatist and his role as a watchdog of the society can be channeled towards demystifying negative and repressive social status quo and planning in their places, a socially responsible society. To achieve this goal, the study which is captured in five inter-linking chapters explored the qualitative research approach, making use of primary and secondary sources of information in forming the bulk of its analysis to come to the conclusion that dramatists have roles to play in fostering an egalitarian society.
CHAPTER TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGES
Title Page - - - - i
Certification - - - ii
Dedication - - - - iii
Acknowledgements - - iv Abstract - - - - vi
Table of Contents - - vii
CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of the Study - - - - - 1
1.2 Statement of the Problem - - - - - 5
1.3 Scope of the Study - - - - - - 7
1.4 Significance of the Study - - - - - 8
1.5 Limitation of the Study - - - - - - 8
1.6 Research Methodology - - - - - - 9
1.7 Organization of the Study - - - - - 9
CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
2.1 Social Revolution in Nigerian Drama and Theatre: A
Historical overview - - - - - - 10
2.2 The Literature of Social Revolution: An Analysis of Concepts 16
CHAPTER THREE: ANALYSIS OF PLAYS UNDER STUDY
3.1 Soyinka: The Jero Plays - - - - - - 21
3.1.1 About the Dramatists - - - - - - 21
3.1.2 The Jero Plays: Plot Synopsis - - - - - 24
3.2 Uwemedimo Atakpo: Background and Philosophy - - 26
3.3 Ken Saro Wiwa -N- the Niger Delta Trials: Plot Synopsis 27
CHAPTER FOUR: ANALYSIS OF ISSUES OF SOCIAL REVOLT
4.1 Social Revolution in Ken Saro Wiwa -N- the Niger Delta
Trails - - - - - - - - - 31
4.1.1 Marginalization and Injustice - - - - - 32
4.1.2 Environmental Degradation - - - - - 34
4.1.3 Crisis of Development - - - - - 36
4.2 Issue of Social Revolt in Soyinka’s The Jero Plays - - 38
4.2.1 Gender Inequality - - - - - - - 38
4.2.2 Faith and Religion - - - - - - - 39
4.2.3 Politics - - - - - - - - 40
4.2.4 Social Status - - - - - - - - 41
5.1 Summary - - - - - - - - 42
5.2 Recommendations - - - - - - 45
5.3 Conclusion - - - - - - - - 46
Works Cited - - - - - - - 48
1.1 Background of the Study
The theatre, right from time immemorial is known to have always been alive to the socio-political realities of its time; a kind of court where the economic, social, religious and political issues of the society are outlined, evaluated and judged to bring about a better society. Thus, the theatre and its practitioners can all be regarded as vanguards of social change and revolt in their respective capacities keeping watchful eyes and attentive ears on the happenings of the society.
In Nigeria for instance, virtually all the new generation playwrights like Effiong Johnson, Ubong Nda, Tunde Fatunde, Olu Obafemi, Femi Fatoba, Sefi Atta among others are committed to issues of social and political concerns of our time. The relevance of any play is dependent on how well it is able to address the pressing issues of its immediate society.
It will only amount to man’s inhumanity to man, a sin against oneself and the nation, should a Nigerian playwright, writing for a Nigerian audience choose to merely play to the gallery in the face of the numerous perceivable social disjunctions in the society. This is why Achebe posits that “any writer who tries to avoid the big social and political question of his time will end up completely irrelevant to his society” (3). He likens such a writer to the absurdist man in an Igbo proverb, who leaves his burning house to pursue rodents fleeing from the flames.
The social playwright believes that the level of injustice, corruption and other forms of moral decadence in the contemporary society have gone to where the art of speaking with the tongue in the cheek on the stage alone is no longer enough, but rather demands an urgent and adequate directional representation for an immediate social reform. Femi Osofisan, one of the pioneer proponents of a socially radical theatre believes that “if we warned ourselves often and painfully enough with reality, if we refused to bandage our sensitive spots away from the hurts of truth, then we can attain a new and positive awareness” (4).
The social revolution theatre in Nigeria just like its prototypes around the world should, as a matter of necessity, be committed to issues that will provide direct, matter-of-fact, evaluation on the stage and bring them to the consciousness of the audience who would then begin to do something to sensitize the entire society and initiate an attitudinal and social change.
A review of the developmental trends in Nigerian theatre practice from the post independence era to the present day shows that there has been a noticeable change in the tone of Nigerian plays both in content and form. This, no doubt, is a result of the influence of social revolt and radicalism in the practice. From the seventies, for instance, Nigerian playwrights no longer wrote to entertain alone, but also to express certain ideological positions or to condemn certain societal ills. To Saint Abilekaa: “The contemporary Nigerian playwright bears a mark of ideological commitment and patriotism. The text of his play will invariably reflect the socio-political situation under which he writes. His themes and subject matters naturally emerge from issues of interest within his domain” (3).
The theatre takes the lead in the search for an alternative social status quo. It shares in the burden of national healing and recuperation. In playing the role of an interventionist, the theatre should attempt to draw a broad line between the good and the bad sides of the societal life for, as Sam Ukala puts it: “The good is only recognized in relation to the bad, courage in relation to cowardice, the holy against the unholy… it is only through these relationships that the theatre is able to initiate both sides and present them on stage for the peoples’ judgment” (23).
In Nigeria, as in most African countries, the theatre imitates for the purpose of causing not only change in the moods of the people through entertainment, but also a change in their mindsets for the betterment of the society. In a more practical sense, theatre practitioners do not only advocate for change but also spur the people to do so. This is exemplified in the popular theatre where the practitioner only acts as a facilitator while the people do the actual advocacy. Hence, Asamba observes that “as a society changes, its political arrangement, theatrical performances and functions also continue to change along the lines of the new dictates or reality” (49).
In essence, the theatre impacts the society and vice versa. Thus, this research work is designed to present the theatre as a veritable tool for social revolution, using Soyinka’s The Jero plays and Atakpo’s Ken Saro Wiwa -n- the Niger Delta Trials as case studies.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The social dramatist has always been a frontline soldier in the fight for a transformed society. This, he does by rejecting in totality, all unacceptable standards; the political class therefore naturally perceives the social dramatist as a thorn-in-the-flesh. The dramatists who write about the dark sides of the society, have often met stiff opposition from the ruling class. This is because they are never on the side of a repressive government and, as such, considered as palpable threats and a social time bomb ready to explode at any time. This is why governments with authoritarian leanings will always fight theatre radicalism to the point of extinction.
Unfortunately, theatre and politics have proven to be an inseparable pair, since politics is part of the social life of every society and theatre mirrors that life. The radical dramatists therefore stick out their necks to play the role of the social commentator and watchdog of the society. The unending war of ideology between the ruling class and the social dramatists has resulted in several sad tales on the part of the dramatist. Nikolai Gogol of Russia, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o of Kenya and Wole Soyinka of Nigeria are a few who have suffered stiff persecution from their nation’s governments, for attempting to correct the ills of the society, using drama as a tool.
There is therefore an urgent need for a point of convergence between the dramatist and the ruling class, wherein the ruling class should begin to see the social dramatist not as a rival, but as a social agent whose comments should be analyzed and put to good use. On the other hand, the dramatists ought to play his role in objectivity eschewing all forms of personal sentiments and thus an egalitarian society can be achieved.
1.3 Scope of the Study
Drama and theatre speak universal language which is understood by all tribes and races. Theatre practice is therefore a universal art. In order to give it a concise delineation, this work shall be limited to the Nigerian situation, but not without some relevant references to the socio-political possibilities in some other parts of the world, especially in Africa.
1.4 Significance of the Study
This research work shall serve as the reference document providing a kind of guide for upcoming dramatists and theatre practitioners who may wish to focus their arts on the constructive reformation of the society. It shall also help provide a step by step approach to a logical and critical evaluation of the social and political malfunctioning of the society while at the same time suggesting the way forward to solving the society’s problems. The research work shall serve to expose the ills of the society, especially those emanating from poor leadership, political insincerity and religious hypocrisy. It will also serve as a research material for students and other researchers who may wish to carry out research in similar areas of interest.
1.5 Limitations of the Study
This research was executed with the effort of a single individual whose financial means are limited. The researcher therefore encountered the problem of inadequate finance, especially in the search for materials. Also, as in all research efforts of this nature, the study was limited by the amount of time available for a comprehensive study because of the pressure of other academic activities.
1.6 Research Methodology
This research employed both the primary and secondary sources of data collection. The New MLA parenthetical style is adopted to provide written acknowledgement for the sources of information.
1.7 Organization of the Study
This research is aptly captured in five inter-linking chapters. Chapter One covers the general introduction to the work, Chapter Two reviews a range of related literature, Chapter Three takes into analysis, the plays and dramatists under study here, Chapter Four analyzes the outcome of data and issues raised. Chapter Five which is the concluding chapter summarizes, concludes and makes recommendations from the research
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