Annmarie Drury

Published On


Page Range

pp. 398–419


  • English

Print Length

22 pages

7. Searching for Swahili Jane

While Jane Eyre has travelled widely, it remains absent from most languages of sub-Saharan Africa. This chapter explores a failure of transmission through translation by focusing on a specific literary sphere, that of Swahili. It traces a culture of translation that has not (yet) admitted Brontë, one in which the nineteenth-century British novel had a role in colonial enforcement of language norms. After suggesting that Swahili translations of Alice in Wonderland might point to a place for Brontë’s novel, the chapter explores preoccupations shared by Jane Eyre and Euphrase Kezilahabi’s novel Rosa Mistika (1971) and Mwana Kupona binti Msham’s nineteenth-century poem Utendi wa Mwana Kupona (Mwana Kupona’s Poem); it highlights bird imagery in the novels and themes of power, education, and femininity across all three texts.


Annmarie Drury

Associate Professor of English at City University of New York

Annmarie Drury is the author of Translation as Transformation in Victorian Poetry (2015), the translator and editor of Stray Truths: Selected Poems of Euphrase Kezilahabi (2015), and the editor of The Imaginative Vision of Abdilatif Abdalla’s Voice of Agony, which is forthcoming. She studies poetry and cultures of translation in the British nineteenth century and in Swahiliphone East Africa, and she writes and translates poetry. She is writing a book about tropes and politics of listening in Victorian poetry. She is Associate Professor of English at Queens College, City University of New York