Women and utterance in contexts of violence : Nehanda, Without a name and The strange virgins by Yvonne Vera.
Mukiwa, Faresi Rumbidzai.
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This dissertation is a study of women and utterance in contexts of violence in the three selected novels written by the late Yvonne Vera: Nehanda (1993), Without a Name (1994), and The Stone Virgins (2002). A study of the representation of women in particular is appropriate because their role in the making of the history of Zimbabwe has been deliberately undermined or ignored by 'patriotic' historians and politicians alike. This study incorporates a historical and post-colonial feminist analysis of women and their empowerment through utterance in Vera's novels. Their achieving utterance is seen as a way of countering a past tendency to focus on women being victims of patriarchal ideologies with little being done to expose the degree and nature of women's resistance against oppressive, socially constructed gender relations. The kind of violence experienced by Vera's women is both physical (rape and murder) and psychological. Two dimensions of utterance have been explored in this study. Firstly, the study examined what the characters can and cannot say about their conditions of suffering. This entailed an examination of their cultural and contextual limitations as well as their personal difficulties. Secondly, the study investigated how Vera, writing some fifteen years after the events she depicts and with the advantage of hindsight, represents her women characters as agents of their own recovery from the violation perpetrated against them. This involved an analysis of Vera's utterance and her thematic concerns, especially her revisioning of history in breaking the silence of her women characters. Positioned in relation to existing critical works on Vera's novels, this study's contribution to the critical debate has been its demonstration of how Vera, through the use of her narrative technique and unique poetic style was able to challenge the conditions of women in the past in a way that has relevance to present-day Zimbabwe and offers possibilities for the future Zimbabwe.