Professor Wole Soyinka

Video now available of Wole Soyinka at Ertegun House

Matt Pickles

Brexit, Trump, Bob Dylan, pan-Africanism and Nigerian politics.

These were among the topics covered by the Nigerian Nobel Laureaute, poet, playwright and novelist Wole Soyinka when he spoke at Ertegun House recently.

The event was the inaugural Ertegun House seminar in the Humanities. The series brings into conversation members of the Ertegun House community and notable figures from the cultural, artistic, and academic worlds.

A video of the conversation is now available here.

Rhodri Lewis, Professor of English Literature and Director of Ertegun House, said the inaugural seminar was very successful and that Professor Soyinka offered “a tour de force of penetrating cultural commentary, delivered with measured but often playful outspokenness”.

The discussion was led by Professor Elleke Boehmer, who is Professor of World Literature in English at the University and the Director of The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

Mayowa Ajibade, an Ertegun Scholar who is studying for a Master’s in World Literatures in English and was also born in Nigeria, attended the talk. He said: ‘I grew up attending theatre performances of Soyinka’s plays in Lagos, Nigeria.

I think Soyinka writes with a palpable reverence for what James Baldwin, the American writer, calls "the force of life," in its many manifestations. I am particularly fascinated by the peculiar way Soyinka writes about food and the experience of eating, for instance.

‘I definitely agree with Soyinka's assessment, in the interview with Professor Boehmer, that African Literature in its current state is "robust", "varied", and "liberated" from its former anxieties about ideology.

'I particularly liked Soyinka's complex understanding of the way language functions - i.e. as both a "creative agency in itself" and as an instrument - an agent - that is regulated by the particular experience it refers to.’

The next events in the series are as follows:

Quentin Skinner (Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London; winner of Balzan Prize), 5.30pm, 24 February 2017.

Stig Abell (Editor, Times Literary Supplement), 5.30pm, 4 May 2017.

The seminar takes place once a term and is open to all members of the University.

Advanced registration is required in advance. Podcasts of each event will be made available on the website.

Ertegun House provides the Ertegun Scholarship Programme with a high-profile presence at Oxford. It is the base for the study and research of the Ertegun Scholars, and serves as a centre of innovation and activity across the humanistic disciplines.

It was founded in 2012 following a donation from Mrs Mica Ertegun.

For more information on the Ertegun Scholarship Programme, visit the website.