Ryan Topper and Thando Njovane on Yvonne Vera

Yvonne Vera

The next Finding Africa seminar will be two papers on the Zimbabwean author and scholar, Yvonne Vera.

Ryan Topper will present on “Life Beyond the Archive: Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins” and Thando Njovane will give a paper on “Architectures of Voice and Language in Yvonne Vera’s Under the Tongue” at 5.30pm at the University of Leeds’ Humanities Research Institute on 25 November 2015.

*Entrance is free and all are welcome*


Life Beyond the Archive: Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins


It is estimated that the Gukurahundi Massacres of 1980s Zimbabwe left somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people dead. Considering the fact that victims were often burned, buried in mass graves, or dropped in abandon mine shafts, however, a numeric count of the dead remains impossible. Consequently, when, in The Stone Virgins, Yvonne Vera narrates the Gukurahundi while explicitly leaving out dates, names, or overall historical precision, she is responding to a historiographic problem: how does one write of that which cannot be archived? Using the historiographic questions raised by Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever as a point of departure, I read The Stone Virgins as a latent burial rite for the victims of the Gukurahundi, Vera’s attempt to write an ancestral history beyond the parameters of archival history.


Architectures of Voice and Language in Yvonne Vera’s Under the Tongue

420461Yvonne Vera’s Under the Tongue is a novel saturated in silence, in the word unspoken and unspeakable. As such, it has prompted much scholarly research on the feminist issue of voice, women, and the national identity politics of Vera’s Zimbabwe. More recently, the novel has also been the subject of deliberation around aesthetics of trauma, specifically as these pertain to the child protagonist, Zhizha’s muteness. Bearing these questions in mind, my paper is concerned with Vera’s construction of Zhizha’s consciousness through the dialogical interplays she establishes between the motif of voice(lessness) and speech via the vehicle of language as understood in its discursive manifestations. Above all, I am interested in how Vera’s aesthetic simultaneously mobilises and undermines language itself in this literary project.

*Ryan Topper is a PhD candidate in the School of English at the University of Leeds, where he studies postcolonial literature and critical theory. He is currently writing a thesis exploring the relations between trauma and spirit possession in post-deconstructive psychoanalysis and Sub-Saharan African literature.

*Thando Njovane is a literature PhD candidate and a Flanagan scholar at Rhodes University. She is interested in trauma, psychoanalysis, mourning, children/childhood, ethics and aesthetics in African and Japanese literature.

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