Jessica Murray: The Body Remembers and Speaks Rape in the Work of Yvonne Vera
This is just a note to inform you that the second of our web-based papers has appeared on the website. The paper is from Jessica Murray of University of York and it is titled “The Body Remembers and Speaks Rape in the Work of Yvonne Vera”. Access it at this link and watch this space for further web-based papers.
This paper will explore Yvonne Vera’s representation of rape through the rubric of Luce Irigaray’s theories. In particular, the emphasis will be on challenging conventional notions of “breaking silence” as the only way towards healing. Irigaray argues that “the right to virginity should be part of girls’ civil identity as a right to respect for their physical and moral integrity” (206). I am following Irigaray and using the term “virginity” to refer to more than the physical intactness of the hymen and to include the “existence of a spiritual interiority” (152) of the girl. In Under The Tongue ,when Zhizha initially stops speaking after the rape she is displaying the silence of the abused child, which constitutes a paralysis of speaking rather than real silence. The paper will show how her silence develops from this passive paralysis to an active returning to her own interiority in order to heal. In a reclamation of herself and her virginity the touching of the two lips that is signified by her silence becomes a healing activity to counter the pain that was caused by the enforced parting of the vaginal lips by the father. It is through this silence that she is able to cultivate the stillness that is necessary to hear the rivers that connect her to the bodies of her mother and grandmother and it is this connection that ultimately enables her to return home.