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“Sex, Pleasures, Dangers, Love and Lies!”

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Representing Female Sexualities in Selected Contemporary Poetry by Malawian Women

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This essay examines how contemporary Malawian female poets writing in the post-dictatorship era engage with aspects that inflect female sexuality such as eroticism, sexual desire, marriage, sexual violence, and HIV/AIDS through their poetry and how they represent these aspects against normative expectations of gender and sexuality. I am interested in how these poets depict the complex mediation of female sexualities by the state, the family, religious, and cultural bodies and how, in turn, they represent sexuality as simultaneously a domain of restriction, repression, and danger as well as a domain of exploration, pleasure, and agency. Through an analysis of selected works by Malawian female poets, I examine how the authors negotiate issues of female sexuality within the new democratic dispensation which have traditionally been relegated to the margins in favour of more politically ‘relevant’ issues. I argue that these poets challenge the monolithic status quo through which Malawian women’s sexualities have been constructed by portraying the nuances, complexities, and ambiguities that characterize female sexuality in Malawi.

Affiliations: 1: Department of English, Chancellor College, Zomba, Malawi


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