Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Kaka Country: An Intertextual Reading of National Dysfunction in Bulawayo's We Need New Names and Jinga's One Foreigner's Ordeal

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Kaka Country: An Intertextual Reading of National Dysfunction in Bulawayo's We Need New Names and Jinga's One Foreigner's Ordeal

Article excerpt

Author(s): Esther Mavengano [1]; Muchativugwa L. Hove (corresponding author) [2]

Introduction

Linguists and literary critics have suggested the need for increased sensibility to both the internal and external worlds of fictional works during the reading process. These debates seem to propose alternative interpretive practices that go beyond linguistic signification and acknowledge the significant role of contextualisation of literary discourse, as well as an awareness of the influence of related texts in the manner the reader interacts with the present text. Such insightful discussions destabilise, subvert and call for a re-evaluation of previously held epistemologies that have informed reading of fictional discourse. The article investigates the idea that a text is never independent and original, which presents a departure from critical realist interpretive paths. This has profound implications for analysis and interpretation because a more complex conception of fictional works emerges. The interaction of the present text, related texts and the reader, foregrounds essential constructs and actors in the meaning-making process. This advances interpretive practices that privilege assessment of the nature of these interactions (Cresswell, 2008). It is this background that informs this article, where the central questions that prime the article are the following:

* Are there evident stylistic and thematic interactions in the selected narratives?

* What interpretive insights can be gained by exploring stylistic and thematic conversations through the lens of intertextuality in selected Zimbabwean literary texts?

The selected texts examined in this article are debut novels by Zimbabwean writers living in the diaspora. They are contemporaneous in that Tavuya Jinga's One Foreigner's Ordeal was published in 2012, while NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names followed closely in 2013. The first part of each novel is set in Zimbabwe and later on, One Foreigner's Ordeal takes a South African setting, while We Need New Names takes an American one. The article examines this Southern African fiction as it demonstrates a connection to other texts that convey a striking conjunction of scatology and political satire, borne out most clearly in two landmark novels of the 1960s: Soyinka's The Interpreters (1965) and Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968). Soyinka satirises political and corporate misdeeds in terms of unhealthy digestion. In Armah's grotesque vision, shit (including its corporeal familiars phlegm, drool, vomit, sweat, piss and blood) emerges as an index of moral and political outrage in a new Ghana bedevilled by greed and bureaucratic corruption. The two texts examined here are extensions of these indices, to the extent that kaka (shit) and its scatological meanings in the postcolonial state bear significant ways of understanding the malfeasance in the politics of vulgarity.

The messiness of making sense

As the article examines how the selected narratives stylistically and thematically interact, it is significant to define style. The term style carries a variety of meanings and its polysemic nature presents definitional problems because there is no consensus among scholars on what it means. Leech and Short (1981) define style as the way in which language is used in a given context by a writer for a specific purpose. Although the definition of style is complex and always contested, a working definition of style as a manner of linguistic expression in prose or verse is adopted (Abrams 1981). Style facilitates the conveyance of significant meanings. Thus, style generally refers to the expressive aspects of language and artistic ways of expression that recuperate the iconicity of semiotics.

Although the narratives studied in this article seem to challenge rigid canonisation of fictional texts, it could be still argued that the novels are part of the African literary canon. …

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