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    Language, violence and landscape in Yvonne Vera’s The stone virgins -and- Ekhaya: The years of childhood.

    Sayi, Frank Thabani (2021) Language, violence and landscape in Yvonne Vera’s The stone virgins -and- Ekhaya: The years of childhood. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    This thesis is presented in two parts – a Critical Thesis and a portfolio of Creative Writing. My Critical Thesis explores how violence in Zimbabwe necessarily derives from the question of the land. That it has a historical resonance that stretches from the fight for independence, to the post-independence internecine violence and to the present day. Given the unparalleled levels of violence, particularly violence against women, I interrogate the genealogy of this violence, in order to explore the basic assumptions of my thesis; that its aetiology, signs and symptoms, can only be read and understood in the context of past national trauma and group dynamics. I ponder the ways in which violence dominates Zimbabwe’s collective unconscious as a major part of its psychic history. And by contemplating violence as a mode of relating that shapes the myriad of ways in which Zimbabweans relate to, and treat each other, I try to establish the trajectory of this violence well into the future. To do so, I use a nuanced reading of Yvonne Vera’s novel, The Stone Virgins. By focusing on language, violence and landscape, my reading of Vera’s novel places it within an interpretive context of history, memory and trauma studies. This allows me to interrogate the complex nexus between Zimbabwe’s history of violence, and the role played by political violence in the formation, sustenance and maintenance of what I propose to call Zimbabwean masculinities. It is also through this nuanced reading of The Stone Virgins that the thesis explores the complex, social, political and violent cultural practices which I believe have led to the distinctive nature of Zimbabwean masculinities. The thesis also explores how Vera’s literary works address the estrangement of people and language from the landscape, both physical and internal, and the way in which her novel seeks to describe, and at the same time contextualise, the way in which violence turns familiar spaces into inhospitable terrain. In discussing The Stone Virgins, it is my contention that Vera’s narrative structure, and her characters, and by extension Zimbabwean masculinities, necessarily derive from such a deformed, violated and sometimes violating landscape. My short stories compliment the Critical thesis with its theme of language, violence and landscape in the context of war and its aftermath. There is a chronology that binds these stories together. 1979 and Guerrillas provide an opening into the world of segregation. N’Kayi, Gokwé, Night Under the Tree, Ashes, and Day of Reckoning deal with the post-independence internecine violence, the devastation caused by the forced famine and the inhumanity of that period. And Olifants Town engages with familial displacement, exile and trauma in the aftermath of war. Together these ‘fragments’ advance renewed conversations about history, memory and the ‘crisis of witnessing’ and the translation of trauma into literary works. They ‘speak about and speak through the profound story of traumatic experience’. It is from within this cauldron of violence that conflicted narratives of the past emerge. They also probe and explore how gendered acts of violence such as rape, and political violence, ‘make visible the imagination of the Zimbabwean nation as intrinsically male.’ And highlight the importance of women’s voices, and the irreversible harm done to the social fabric by the war of liberation and Gukurahundi atrocities.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2021 14:44
    Last Modified: 08 Dec 2021 07:23
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/46878

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