The English language and the construction of cultural and social identity in Zimbabwean and Trinbagonian literatures
Bamiro, Edmund Olushina
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The present study employs the frameworks of postcolonial literary theory, sociolinguistics, and the social psychology of language use to compare the nature, function, and meaning of English in the delineation of cultural and social identities in anglophone Zimbabwean and Trinbagonian literatures. The construction of cultural and social identities in these literatures inheres in how certain Zimbabwean and Trinbagonian novelists use various linguistic devices to contextualize the English language in their respective cultures, and how they employ the English language to articulate and reinforce colonial, counter-colonial, and other heteroglossic social discourses arising from conflicts of race, class, and gender in the Zimbabwean and Trinbagonian contexts. Chapter One outlines the nature of the research and sets up the terms and categories that will feature prominently in the analysis. Chapter Two examines the place of English in the socio-economic and cultural history of Zimbabwe and of Trinidad and Tobago, and offers a description of the indigenous or other national languages which play prominent roles in the linguistic configuration of the two nations. The chapter also critically reviews the attitudes of some prominent post-colonial writers, particularly from the African and Caribbean regions, to the use of English as a medium of artistic creativity. Chapter Three engages with narrative idiom and characters' idioms and comments as they relate to (a)the nativization of English in selected Zimbabwean novels and the use of English and other indigenous languages for articulating social norms and certain situational imperatives, and (b) the power and politics of English as an instrument for domination, manipulation, oppression, the construction of elitist identity, the reproduction of unequal power relations, and of resistance to such social injustice. Chapter Four addresses issues discussed in Chapter Three, but with reference to the Trinbagonian literary context. Chapter Five, the conclusion, synthesizes the arguments by pointing out the sociolinguistic similarities and differences between Zimbabwean and Trinbagonian Literatures analyzed in the study. Furthermore, the concluding chapter not only indicates the values of an interdisciplinary project such as this one for both linguistics and literary studies, but it also delineates certain research options for the future. The dissertation generally concludes that the construction of Zimbabwean and Trinbagonian identities in and through language can be read as a mode of resistance to the homogenizing, assimilative practices of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Thus, the detailed documentation provided in this study of the range of linguistic and socio-cultural differences between Zimbabwean and Trinbagonian literatures on the one hand, and other works of English (especially the acrolectal varieties) on the other, establishes that while there is no single, stable Zimbabwean or Trinbagonian identity that is constituted in the language of literary texts to set up in contrast to an imperial British or American one, the fact of differences is indisputable.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Copyright DateSeptember 1997
Trinidad - literature
Zimbabwe - literature
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