Intersections of language, landscape and the violated female body in the texts of Yvonne Vera

Murray, Jessica (2004-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis will examine the way in which representations of landscape and the language of nationalist discourse contribute to the creation of an environment in which the female body is particularly vulnerable to violation. In her novels Without a Name, Under the Tongue and The Stone Virgins, Yvonne Vera identifies the extent to which the linguistic and representational legacies of colonialism, as well as the language and operational strategies of nationalism, conspire to facilitate the layered disempowerment and victimisation of women in Zimbabwe. Vera exposes the inconsistencies in the symbolic economy of colonialism and nationalism by problematising the equation of the African woman with the African landscape in the case of colonial discourse and by questioning the equation of the African woman with the good, nurturing and self-abnegating mother of the nation in the case of nationalist rhetoric. By articulating the experiences of her female protagonists, Vera makes it clear that the liberation of the Zimbabwean land from white minority rule does not necessarily lead to the liberation of the women who live and work on the land. Colonialism, nationalist movements and the wars that sought to reclaim the land that was appropriated in the imperial endeavour impacted men and women in very different ways. In order to voice the stories of women, Vera chooses to eschew conventional modes of writing and speaking since they are pervaded with metaphors that perpetuate the disempowerment of women. Instead, she attempts to develop a new discourse that amalgamates poetry and prose, orality and writing and innovation and tradition. She turns to the female body and engages with the Zimbabwean landscape in an alternative way in her attempt to speak the hitherto silenced stories of women. In doing so, Vera reclaims the subversive power of women's speech and silences within communities of women. The way in which women communicate in these distinctly female spaces forms the basis of the language Vera creates to tell of women's experiences of rape, incest and mutilation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis sal ondersoek instel na die wyse waarop voorstellings van landskap en die taal van nasionalistiese diskoers bydra tot die skepping van 'n situasie waarin die vroulike liggaam uiters kwesbaar is. In haar romans Without a Name, Under the Tongue en The Stone Virgins, identifiseer Yvonne Vera die mate waarin die linguistieke en voorstellingspraktyke van kolonialisme sowel as die taal en operasionele strategieë van nasionalisme saamwerk om die veelvuldige ontmagtiging en viktimisering van vroue in Zimbabwe te fasiliteer. Vera ontbloot die teenstrydighede in die simboliese ekonomie van kolonialisme en nasionalisme deur middel van 'n problematisering van die gelykstelling van die Afrika vrou en die Afrika landskap in die geval van kolonialistiese diskoers en deur 'n bevraagtekening van die Afrika vrou en die goeie, self-opofferende moeder van die nasie in die geval van die retoriek van nasionalisme. Deur die ondervindings van haar vroulike karakters te artikuleer, maak Vera dit duidelik dat die bevryding van Zimbabwe van wit minderheidsbeheer nie noodwendig gelei het tot die bevryding van die vroue wat in Zimbabwe woon en werk nie. Kolonialisme, nasionalistiese bewegings en die oorloë wat die land probeer terugeis het wat in die kolonialistiese projek geapproprieer is, het mans en vrouens op verskillende wyses beïnvloed. In haar poging om vrouens se stories te vertel, besluit Vera om nie gebruik te maak van konvensionele maniere van skryf of praat nie, aangesien hulle gekenmerk word deur metafore wat die ontmagtiging van vroue bevorder. Sy poog eerder om 'n nuwe diskoers te ontwikkel wat 'n amalgamasie is van poësie en prosa, oraliteit en skryfkuns en vernuwing en tradisie. Sy wend haarself tot die vroulike liggaam en sy werk met die Zimbabwiese landskap op 'n alternatiewe wyse in haar poging om die stories van vroue wat tot nou toe stil gemaak is, te vertel. In hierdie projek neem Vera die mag van vroue se spraak en stilte terug. Die manier waarop vroue kommunikeer in die vroulike ruimtes van groepe wat eksklusief uit vroue bestaan, vorm die uitgangspunt van die taal wat Vera skep om te vertel van vroue se ervarings van verkragting, bloedskande en mutilasie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/49996
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