Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

7. A Literary Exploration of Trauma and Resilience in Tagwira's the Uncertainty of Hope

Academic journal article NAWA: Journal of Language and Communication

7. A Literary Exploration of Trauma and Resilience in Tagwira's the Uncertainty of Hope

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The aim of this paper is to explore the relevance of trauma and resilience theory in elucidating contemporary African texts. Using the selected novel, the two theories are used as literary lenses to demonstrate how malleable literary theories are and how our present day challenges, joys and celebrations are scripted by modern writers of commitment. African literature is closely linked to the experience of the African in his family circle, his society and his continent. This reality is however, not adequately addressed by traditional literary theories. This study, therefore explores how trauma theory and resilience theory could be employed to answer the quest for critical literary theories that can be adequately applied in the African context by analyzing the selected literary text, The uncertainty of hope (2006) by Valerie Tagwira.

In literary studies it is important that theories are applied that will adequately emphasize the message of the literary work. However, traditional theories have failed in many ways to capture the essence of African literary works which serve a central purpose in society. It is important for theories to address 'the real world', the real issues and concerns of society and its joys, fears and challenges. In the selected text, the writer Tagwira reflects on the hardships and trauma endured by the characters and how they come up with survival strategies that enable them to reconstruct their lives and hope for a better future. This paper therefore attempts to demonstrate how trauma theory and resilience theory can be used to analyse literary texts, fictional and non-fictional as a way to explain the realities of everyday lives in Africa. The two theories are rooted in the social sciences and when used in literary studies, these literary lenses bring about some novel perspectives to literary studies, and in some ways they address the 'poverty of theories' that some African literary critics like Vambe (2003) and Nnolim (2006) have lamented about.

2. Understanding theoretical terms: Trauma and resilience

The central terms in this paper, which are the theoretical buffers of this research are trauma and resilience and the terms are explained below as they have been defined by different thinkers. According to Rodi-Risberg (2006, p. 33), trauma is "a phenomenon that is too shocking to be fully registered upon occurrence. It is only experienced belatedly. It offers specific challenges to traditional notions of referentiality". From this definition, what comes out clearly is that RodiRisberg's definition fruitfully captures the essence of literary studies in the sense of recording an event in its belatedness; that which has been and or happened, can be or can happen and may be. Moreover, Caruth (1995) argues that "trauma includes symptoms that had previously been called shellshock, combat stress, delayed stress syndrome, and traumatic neurosis, and referred to responses to both human and natural catastrophes" (p. 3). She further mentions that these symptoms had previously been classified as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "There is a response, sometimes delayed, to an overwhelming event or events, which takes the form of repeated, intrusive hallucinations, dream thoughts or behaviours stemming from the event, along with numbing that may have begun during or after the recalling of the event" ( p. 4).

Marder (2006) describes a traumatic event as a strange sort of event that cannot be located within the boundaries of place and time, therefore literature is one of the ways we communicate events about human experiences that cannot be contained by other ordinary modes of expression. Furthermore, according to Hartman (2004), trauma theory dwells on the relationship between words and trauma which helps to read the wound with the aid of literature.

Another important theoretical term used in this research is resilience. Resilience is explained as a dynamic process wherein individuals display positive adaptation despite experiences of significant adversity or trauma. …

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