Yvonne Vera's Bulawayo: Modernity, (Im)mobility, Music, and Memory

Samuelson, Meg
June 2007
Research in African Literatures;Summer2007, Vol. 38 Issue 2, p22
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
This article explores the production and performance of urban modern subjectivity in Vera's Bulawayo, as represented in her two final novels, Butterfly Burning and The Stone Virgins. The modern subject emerges from these fictions as an inherently restless one: railing against colonial containment and articulating its desire for an elsewhere, it finds expression in Vera's privileged tropes of music and trains; both traveling tropes, music and trains in these texts are rendered as figures through which movement across rural/urban and national boundaries is articulated. Honing in on these tropes, as well as those of the photograph and the street corner, Vera cracks upon the ambivalences infusing urban modernity in both colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe. grappling with, and seeking not to subdue, the dissonance introduced by such ambivalence, the novels expose the fraudulent promises of colonial and national modernities, highlighting, in particular, their gendered logics. Vera's final novel, I argue, writes towards a utopian modernity yet to be realized. If modernity has been conceptualized and lived as a flight from the past, that towards which Vera writes draws upon memory to counter the homogenizing drive of the modern colonial or nation state.


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