Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Freudianism, Hermeneutics and the Dance Motif in Two Post 2000 Zimbabwean Short Stories

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

Freudianism, Hermeneutics and the Dance Motif in Two Post 2000 Zimbabwean Short Stories

Article excerpt


There has been a proliferation of dance styles that reflect and interpret contemporary life in Zimbabwe since 2000. A corresponding fictionalisation of dance has occurred in video as in literature. However, the growth of dance and its influence on the citizens has not triggered matching scholarly studies of Zimbabwean dance and its representation, either in embodied experience or fiction. The researcher attempts to bridge that gap by examining the symbiotic relations between Zimbabwean fiction and dance. From his historically situated experience as reader and appreciator of dance, the researcher interprets the dance motifs in Muponde's (2000) and Gappah's (2009) short stories.

The research develops from an assumption that all forms of Zimbabwean dance reveal the desire to express unconscious wishes, and further contends that Zimbabwean dances represented in identified prose works express both what Freud terms the life and death instincts Pervin and John, 1997. The paper, therefore, proposes a Freudian analysis of stories that represent dance. Situating the dance concept into the discourse of the unconscious, and drawing from a general aesthetics of Zimbabwean dance, the research proceeds to offer a simultaneous psychoanalytical and hermeneutical interpretation of Muponde's "Touched"(2000) and Gappah's "Mpandawana Dancing Champion" ("MDC") (2009). A hermeneutical reading (Gadamer, 1960) should reveal the underlying socio-political or psycho-cultural conditions of represented societies in general. Examining the creative use of dance in the imaginative and imaginary world of fiction, the paper argues that despite the apparent social intuitive understanding that dance is an expression of joy, celebration or mockery through the bipedal kinetic manoeuvre of our bodies (, both Muponde (2000) and Gappah (2009) use the dance motif less as an expression of desires or ideals to be gratified than as an expression of, and an obsession with the death instinct.

Curiously, both stories seem to suggest that when reading stories with dance motifs, readers should take dance as both an instance of intertextuality and a text inviting an independent interpretation. "Touched" tells the lived experiences of aspiring writers in stifling postcolonial contexts. It depicts how the ruling elite use dance as a conduit for state aggression, thus wrestling from dance its traditional cultural expression of joyous creativity. The paper asserts that in "Touched" the ritual dance that Elijah hallucinates about symbolically links his hysterical disintegration to the suppression of his creativity. In Zimbabwe after 2000, politically related violence has apparently been preceded by the kongonya (1) dance, which is then elasticised into the jogging "toyi-toyi" (2) war dance punctuated by revolutionary-turned-ritualistic songs calling for the re-education of perceived opponents. "Touched" seems to present dialogical reflections and responses to similar contextual experience.

In "MDC", the research reads dance as an essentially false celebration, a celebration of death. It argues that by exploiting dance, the short story dramatises misplaced excitement in a society cursed with multiplying deaths and a youths exodus. The crowned champion's stylised death connotes the futility of being skilled in an economically and politically imploding country, where inflation exceeds 2,700 000%. In the post colony, dancing apparently remains an unconscious desire, the turning into bodily impulses of the unconscious yearnings analogous to a striptease dancer's sexual display--an essentially visual experience.

Freudianism and the life and death instincts

Freud (1920) popularises the apparent contest between the human mind's conscious, preconscious and the unconscious. The unconscious, the largest and darkest of these constituents, originates and harbours drives, memories and emotions linked to trauma, "phenomena that we are unaware of and cannot become aware except under special circumstances" Pervin and John, 1997:72. …

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