This essay analyzes Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions and argues that this novel appropriates and resignifies the bildungsroman, thus demonstrating that this genre cannot provide a symbolic resolution for the "nervous condition" of the colonized subject. To do so, I integrate a worldsystemic approach with a formalist analysis of genre. Starting from the premise that the modern world-system has been constituted by capitalist modernization and colonial expansion, I read Dangarembga's novel as a localized literary response to these two world-historical forces and analyze the entanglements between formal choices and socioeconomic transformations, as well as their impact on the characters' psyche. By appropriating the realist bildungsroman from a peripheral perspective, Nervous Conditions frames the tense relations between a self-reflecting individuality and her social totality. In so doing, Dangarembga rejects the ideological premises of a genre tied to European bourgeois subjectivity and simultaneously reactivates realism and mimesis as dynamic and flexible modes of representation.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 107-124
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.