Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka to Speak on “Writing for Freedom”

January 31, 2013


Celebrated dramatist, writer, and activist gives public talk Thursday, Feb. 7


TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound welcomes Nobel Prize laureate and internationally acclaimed writer and activist Wole Soyinka to Tacoma in February. Soyinka is best known as a playwright, but is also an accomplished poet, novelist and essayist—as well as an activist and outspoken critic of political corruption worldwide, including in his native Nigeria.

Professor Soyinka will give a public lecture on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, on the topic of “Writing for Freedom.” The talk will begin at 8 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall on campus. Ticket information is below.

In awarding Soyinka the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the Swedish Academy cited the "sparkling vitality" and "moral stature" of his work and praised him as one "who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence." His is a formidable voice for his country and for the continent.

Born in 1934 in western Nigeria, Soyinka attended school in Ibadan before receiving an honors degree in English literature from the University of Leeds, Great Britain. He returned to Nigeria where his play, A Dance in the Forest (1960), thrust him to the forefront of Nigerian politics as a critic of opportunistic politicians who adopted the power abuses of their earlier colonial masters.  

Soyinka spent the next seven years writing and teaching at local universities. His public appeal for a cease-fire in the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70) led to charges that he was conspiring with Biafran rebels, and in 1967 he was arrested and imprisoned by the Nigerian government, spending two years alone in a 4-by-8-foot cell. Released in 1969, he voluntarily went into exile and labored over a plethora of poems, plays, essays, and books.

In 1986 Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his abiding commitment to human liberty. He was the first black African to receive the international recognition for his writing. Soyinka’s plays cross genres, including satirical comedies such as Madmen and Specialists (1970) and Kongi’s Harvest (1965), and the philosophic plays The Strong Breed (1966) and Death and the King’s Horseman (1976).

He has written two novels, The Interpreters (1965) and Season of Anomie (1973); the memoirs The Man Died: Prison Notes (1971) and Aké: The Years of Childhood (1981); and the essay collection Myth, Literature and the African World (1976). In November 2012, the 78-year-old writer published his most recent work, Of Africa, a volume of sweeping reflections on African culture, religion, and politics.

In addition to his prolific publishing of dozens of literary works, Professor Soyinka has taught at the University of Ibadan; at Harvard, Emory, Cambridge, Oxford, and Yale universities; and at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is currently professor in residence at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and remains deeply engaged in Nigerian politics and that country’s emergence as an independent democratic nation.

Soyinka’s lecture is sponsored by the Susan Resneck Pierce Lectures in Public Affairs and the Arts, University of Puget Sound's premier lecture series, named for President Emerita Pierce. The series brings intellectuals, writers, and artists to the university to present challenging ideas that stimulate further exploration and discussion on campus.

Past Pierce lecturers have included economist Robert Reich; author Carlos Fuentes; psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison; filmmaker Spike Lee; the Hon. Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J.; political commentator David Brooks; The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; playwright Edward Albee; race and religion scholar Cornel West; musician Philip Glass; playwright Suzan-Lori Parks; and dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp.

FOR TICKETS order online at http://ups.universitytickets.com, or call Wheelock Information Center on 253.879.6013 to purchase with a credit card.  Admission is $20 for the general public. Puget Sound students, faculty, and staff can attend for free, but tickets must be acquired in advance. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door.

For directions and a map of the campus: www.pugetsound.edu/directions.xml
For accessibility information please contact accessibility@pugetsound.edu or 253.879.3236.

Press photos of Wole Soyinka can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos

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