A Critical Survey of Cultural Perspectives in the Drama of James Ene Henshaw, 1924-2003

  • Liwhu Betiang


A critical evaluation of the beginnings of Nigerian literary drama in English is still shrouded in controversy as most conventional critics and drama historians pitch it with the Onitsha Market literature, among which they mischievously include the works of James Ene Henshaw, who they consider only as a transitional bridge to the serious literary drama of Wole Soyinka. It’s difficult to say what literary criteria have been used to arrive at such misleading conclusion because as Perrine rightly notes, the value of any literature lies in the depiction of “human truth other than fidelity to fact” or mere artiness. This critique, based on the dramatic oeuvre of James Ene Henshaw, evaluates a range of significant cultural perspectives that have engaged the medical doctor/dramatist’s literary life. These themes include issues of cultural engineering and development, and problems that arise from these cultural approaches like cultural relativism, Prometheanism or ethnocentrism, and post-colonial multiculturalism. These have remained central to the critical problems of global cultural engineering towards a culturally adjusted world threatened with the tensions of globalization. The typical post-colonial Buridan’s Ass syndrome of cultural maladjustment as exhibited in the Nigerian (African) elite is also an ongoing malady besetting the Nigerian nation state with resultant tragic dimensions for our primordial and civic cultural spheres and national question. This critique shows that the greatest contribution maybe that James Ene Henshaw has made to drama and theatre, beyond providing prototypal models of African drama and criticism, is the cultural thematic relevance and postmodern inter-disciplinary, inter-cultural discourse and dialogue, that the study of his oeuvre engenders.

Keywords: Dramatic criticism, Cultural Studies, James Ene Henshaw, Nigerian Drama

LWATI: A Journal of Contemporary Research, 9(1), 120-133, 2012

Author Biography

Liwhu Betiang
Department of Theatre & Media Studies, University of Calabar Calabar – Nigeria

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1813-2227