WiSe 2010/11 „Nation and Narration“: Wie der Titel des Seminars verrät, geht es ja um die Beziehung zwischen Literatur und Nation. Um uns dieser Beziehung zu nähern diskutierten wir Timothy Brennans Text “The national longing for form” und den Aufsatz “The DissemiNation: time, narrative and the margins of modern nation” von Homi Bhabha. Beide Texte erschienen 1990 in dem von Bhabha herausgegebenem Buch “Nation and Narration”. Hier fasse ich einige Thesen von Brennan und unsere Diskussionen zu Zimbabwe zusammen.

Der Text ist auf Englisch, da er ein Auszug aus dem Stundenprotokoll ist, welches ich für den Kurs verfasst hatte.

Brennan argues that there is a special relationship between the novel and the nation. He explores the role of the novel as he shows that in Europe the development of the novel went together with the development of the nation state. Therefore he assigns a couple of functions like defining the nation as an “imagined community” and contributing to a national consciousness. In the case of Zimbabwe it was stated in the course, that there can be seen on the one hand a tribute to that function by novels contributing to or echoing patriotic history, but on the other hand there is also literature which provided/ provides a counter-narrative.

Brennan asks, if the functions of the novel as seen in Europe, can be assigned on the novel in colonies/ post-colonies. He states that the “Third world novels” rather aimed for an European audience. Doing so, it cannot have the same functions as the European novels aiming for a local audience. In Zimbabwe there can be seen a two-way development. Novels in Shona and Ndebele, which were published from the 1950s onwards, aimed at a local market, novels written in English in contrast aimed at an international market. There were (at least) two literature spheres in colonial times in Zimbabwe. It was also noted that interestingly the developing nationalism in Zimbabwe used English as a medium and only later on there were tries to use Shona and Ndebele.

Brennan than mentions the “paradox of the new novel” (p. 56). He points out that the novel in many colonies or post-colonies would not be read by too many people, for high rates of illiteracy and other important media such as the television. We stated that his thesis does not fit to the literature in the vernacular languages in Zimbabwe. We summed up that in Zimbabwe there were different levels of discourse given through the colonial situation. In the literature there were/ are differences between the literature in the vernacular and the colonial languages, but there were/ ethnic differences as well. An upcoming nationalism also led to an upcoming national consciousness. The including of historical topics contributed to that consciousness. But in Zimbabwe there had been counter-narratives even before independence.


Bhabha, Homi. 1990. „DissemiNation: time, narrative and the margins of modern nation“, In: Bhabha, Homi (ed.). Nation and Narration. London: Routledge, 291-322.

Brennan, Timothy. 1990. „The national longing for form“, In: Bhabha, Homi (ed.). Nation and Narration. London: Routledge, 44-70.

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