Trauma as Double Wound in Shimmer Chinodya’s Harvest of Thorns

In: Matatu
Bernard Otonye Stephen Niger Delta University, Nigeria

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The colonial experience in Africa left deep corporeal and psychic scars. The anti-colonial struggle involved bloody armed conflicts which left many dead and many more physically and psychologically maimed. Writers as diverse as Chinua Achebe, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Ousmane Sembène, and Shimmer Chinodya have variously addressed the cultural, material, racial, class, psychological, and ideological aspects of this unprecedented history. And literary critics have equally responded by examining African literary texts from cultural, Marxist, colonial, and post-colonial angles. However, given the traumatic experience of the struggle for independence, not much has been done by way of applying trauma theory to the study of African literary texts to illuminate Africa’s violent encounter with the racist imperialism of Europe. Employing the insights of Cathy Caruth, the essay analyses trauma’s characteristic double infliction of a wound on the individual in Chinodya’s anti-colonial novel Harvest of Thorns. The traumatic memories of the liberation war testify to the physical and psychic wounds inflicted on the individual and the community.

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