Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Changing Patterns in the Shona Novel from Zimbabwe – A Linguistic Literary Analysis.

Ziel des interdisziplinären Forschungsprojektes ist es, ein Modell für die Verbindung literaturwissenschaftlicher und linguistischer Analysemethoden im Bereich afrikanisch-sprachiger Literaturen zu entwickeln. Der Textkorpus besteht aus drei Shona-Romanen, die repräsentativ sind für unterschiedliche Phasen in der Entwicklung der Gattung: P. Chakaipa’s Pfumo reropa (1961), C. Mungoshi’s Ndiko kupindana kwamazuva (1975) and I. Mabasa’s Mapenzi (1999). Das Projekt betritt methodologisches Neuland, indem es die linguistische Computer Software “Toolbox” für die Analyse literarischer Texte verwendet. Die Auswertung der elektronischen Recherche erfolgt mithilfe von muttersprachlichen Experten mit linguistischer und literaturwissenschaftlicher Ausbildung. An den Schnittstellen von Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft angesiedelte theoretische Konzepte (Stilistik, Diskursanalyse, Narratologie) leiten die zusammenführende literaturwissenschaftliche Gesamtauswertung des Korpus.


The project was successfully completed in June 2016. In February 2016 findings were presented and discussed in a workshop at Chinoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe.

Written papers that emerged from the project have been published in: Research in African Literatures 48, 1, Spring 2017, special issue entitled „Reading Closely: Investigating Textuality in Afrophones Literatures“, edited by Flora Veit-Wild and Clarissa Vierke.


The linguistic corpus created in the project as well as the primary texts and research publications can be found at

From the editors’ introduction:

The epithet “reading closely” marks the stance and the motto behind this collection of articles which aims to put literary texts from Africa and their critical reception on a par with other major literatures of the world, for whom “close reading” has long since been a widely used term and method of analysis. Our declared aim of “investigating” their “textuality” emphasizes the craftsmanship that is at stake: Language is the clay in the writer’s workshop and its literary usage needs to be examined with appropriate tools.

Our approach is guided by the following main questions: What does writing do in a particular text and how does it do it?  And in our context: how do the specificities of an African language shape a literary text? How do authors writing in an African language creatively explore the linguistic particularities of the language they write in?

Our endeavor can be considered as a plea not only for a more balanced consideration of African languages and the literatures written in them, but also for a more language-centered approach to literature from Africa, generally speaking. Contrary to many prevalent forms of textual analysis of African literatures which tend to quickly step over language to dig for the “meaning” of the text, the contributions in this issue dive into texts and unearth their coming-into-being in and through language.


Projektmitarbeiter/innen - Members of the research team:

Prof. Dr. Flora Veit-Wild

Prof. Dr. Jacob Mapara

Katja Kellerer, M.A.

Isabelle Nguyen, student assistant


Publikationen vom Projekt - Publications of the project:


„Hearing Voices: The Linguistic and Narrative Design of Three Eminent Shona Novels“ (Flora Veit-Wild)

"Harare, Haarari-S/He Does Not Sleep": Imaging the City in Charles Mungoshi's Ndiko Kupindana Kwamazuva and Ignatius Mabasa's Mapenzi (Katja Kellerer)