This article examines Yvonne Vera’s representation of sexual violence in her 2002 novel The Stone Virgins. Set during the violent period of Zimbabwe’s postindependence history known as the gukurahundi, the novel shows how women’s bodies are made to bear the material wounds of protracted national struggles. Vera complicates this critique by articulating scenes of murder and rape using an intensely intimate lexicon, conventionally associated with amatory discourses. In order to elucidate the metaphoric and symbolic connections Vera establishes between desire and violence, I adopt a psychoanalytic framework that seeks to explain the pleasure culture derives from images of subjugated femininity. I argue that Vera’s disquieting conflation of violation with intimacy formulates a powerful critique of women’s inscription by dominant masculinist paradigms, and implicates normative attitudes concerning women’s passivity and sexual availability in a catastrophic national violence.


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pp. 75-87
Launched on MUSE
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