David Moody


In the apocalyptic final scene ofWole Soyinka's Madmen and Specialists, the Old Man signals his intention to operate on the Cripple with the words: 'Now, let's see what makes a heretic tick'.1 This statement expresses one of the play's most insistent concerns: the connection between language and power, or, perhaps more accurately, between linguistic play and political resistance. As such, Madmen and Specialists is a key play in any discussion of the relationship between post-colonial literature-in-English, which by its very nature raises the issue of the political function of language, and post-structuralist theory, which spends so much of its time rehearsing the links between discourse and power. In this paper I will quite deliberately adopt a post-structuralist strategy and attempt a dialogistic reading of Madmen and Specialists: firstly, I will strategically deploy a tool crafted from the theories of Foucault and Derrida to re-forge the play's political critique, a critique underestimated because of the theoretical blindness of the Soyinka orthodoxy to date; and, secondly, I will use the text's claims as drama, as a text written for potential performances, to then interrogate the theories themselves, and any claims they might have to either universality or totality? Through its self-reflexive foregrounding of the subversive role of performance, the play serves to 're-materialize' theory again, re-placing it within the material practices that re-produce it, and re-inscribing it upon the performing body of the neo-colonial subject, thereby preventing it from ever being finished or closed. Such a reading might show that the question of the relationship between post-colonial text and (potentially) neo-colonial theory is a complex, dialectical one: that no theory writes triumphantly upon a theory-less, pure pre-colonial space; and that any use of such theory must be specific, strategic and selfconscious.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.