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Abstract

Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins (2002), both thematically and stylistically, dramatizes a pathological patriarchal system that engages in the oppression of women and their right to normal, happy and productive lives. I argue that, in this novel, she employs the creative imagination and skill of the female I/eye to interrogate a deformed masculinist ideology that has colluded with religion, politics and the class system in the oppression of women, often excluding them from historiography and from public life. In The Stone Virgins, Vera represents a historiography that has marginalized and erased women’s histories from the patriarchal grand narratives of their national liberation history; her narrative points towards women’s future involvement in the whole process of citizenship and nation-building in a ‘reformed’ nation as is evidenced in the closing lines of the novel where the focus is on restoration, recreation and deliverance as essential to the future of the new nation. Writing within the context of a political and economic crisis in 1990s Zimbabwe, with the country showing signs of increasing political decay and growing economic despair, Vera fictionalizes not only the general malaise but specifically the suffering of women under masculinist repression at both the domestic (household) and national levels. In this manner, it parts company with a more celebratory interpretation of history found in conventional liberationist historiography. Vera’s writing in this novel, in her construction of African female subjectivity, critically reassesses the interconnections between masculinist violence as a vital component of liberationist ideology in Zimbabwe both during the liberation struggle and the post-independence years. The corrective narrative of The Stone Virgins resists the masculinist realism of Zimbabwean liberationist narratives that seek to impose a censorship on interrogations of the ‘official’ account. Vera’s writing underscores the importance of counter-narratives (counter-memories) to falsified accounts of history.

Note on the Author

Andrew Armstrong is a lecturer in Literatures in English at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. His research interests include contemporary African literature and film; Black Atlanticism and the novel and the Caribbean short story

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