Part 5 of "Establishing Literary Independence: Hybridity in Zimbabwean Literature"
Phillip Darby discusses the gradually changing focus of African literature: the number of African novels grows, but African writing became increasingly inwardly oriented; cross-references to other cultures and literatures declined. Darby also states that this phenomenon was the result of critics search for something 'distinctly' African in both form and content as they were attempting to develop specifically African standards of literature and literary criticism. The major fault of this argument is that it lends itself to the application of a particular critical discourse against which African authors write. The move toward mostly internal literature is noteworthy, however, because it demonstrates a continental body of literature that supports the reestablishment of a Zimbabwean culture.
For native Zimbabweans, there exists the challenge of reestablishing an identity separate from the English cultural identity imposed upon them during the colonization. Inevitably, the construction of an English cultural identity is inseparable from Other-ing the native as its object. To write fiction in English as a recently independent people indicates the use of English as a tool for gaining independence. In Zimbabwe, this took on the form of writing against the colonialist discourse established external to them, but to which they were inevitably subjected. Engaging the discourse of the authority fueled the self-constitution of the native subject's history. For African fictional writers, this entailed not only writing to affirm the existence of a culture that gained independence from British colonial rule; it also meant that a history had to be remembered and planted within that culture to affirm the people and to establish a future. The question still remains, though: Can English ever belong to the colonized?
This essay will conclude with the following statement: regarding African literature as in need of standardization by external critics is a return to colonialist imposition within a literary context.
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Darby, Phillip. The Fiction of Imperialism: Reading Between International Relations and Postcolonialism. Washington: Cassell, 1998.
Larson, Charles. "Heroic Ethnocentrism: The Idea of Universality in Literature." in The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. New York: Routledge, 1995. pp.62-65.
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