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Zora Neale Hurston
Transcript of Zora Neale Hurston
A Modernist Writer
By Talia Booher
Zora Neale Hurston demonstrates that she is a Modernist writer by trespassing boundaries, emphasizing regionalism, and showing triumph over struggles in her literature and in her life.
Modern writers EXPERIMENTED with literary style & structure and explored NEW topics & themes to show political or social agendas
Aspects of Modernist writing include the use of colloquial language or vernacular and showing the culture of an area
Triumph Over Struggles & The American Dream
Modernist writers covered themes and topics related to overcoming social and economic injustices
The Harlem Renaissance was the discovery of identity for many African Americans
Double consciousness was an internal conflict
How can one embrace one's African roots, but still be a proud American?
Zora's style and voice were unique and a reflection of her personality
Breaking Away from the Rest
She felt that her race was equal to all others
By not claiming the subordinate role, she claimed the equal one--directly promoting equality
She did have a social agenda: African Americans should not have to prove themselves
Other writers were trying to prove the worth of their race
She was proud of her individuality
Social agenda: message that socioeconomic class or race does not define someone and treatment as such should stop--judge only character
"But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood. . ."
Her witty personality shines through
She acknowledged this conflict, but didn't see it the way other writers of the Harlem Renaissance did
She studied and learned about African culture--committed her life to it
But used America to her advantage--saw opportunity like nobody else
"No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost."
"Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How
any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me."
Zora writes casually as if having a conversation with the reader or telling a story orally.
Proud of her heritage
Expressed the good and BAD about her race
Demonstration of equality
"I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. . .pour out the contents and there is a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. . .so much like the jumble of bags, could they could be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the contents of any greatly. . .Perhaps this is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place--who knows?"
The Iceberg theory:
suggestions of deeper meaning
Although someone like Hemingway would be more brief, Hurston's works are comprised of many metaphors and much symbolism like the works of Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
Her discussion of them is less fleeting-- experimentation with style
(brown bag metaphor on page 2161)
Hurston wasn't interested in trying to prove the worth of her race because she believed they were already equal, but just explained the reality of the situation-- skin color is just skin color
Colloquial Language & Vernacular
Gossip of the ladies in
Their eyes were watching God
Use of dialogue and slang of the characters to tell the story and generate a feeling of the town
Eatonville, Florida-- written in a southern accent
Shift in perspective from a narrator to Janie telling her life story to Pheoby
Sense of Community
Ladies gather on the porches of each other's houses and talk
Everybody knows everybody else--small town
Casual conversation--a laid-back attitude
Mom died when she was young
Didn't have a good father
Had to raise herself
Discovered and faced racism on her own
"when I was thirteen, and I was sent to school in Jacksonville. . .I was not Zora of Orange County any more, I was now a little colored girl."
She became the first African American to graduate from Barnard College despite being looked down upon
Didn't have money--she worked hard and proved herself, so people wanted to help her get scholarship money
The American Dream--hard work will pay off
Because she lived her life in a Modernist way, her writing also reflected that
In her writing
She didn't let other's opinions of her work discourage her-- Langston Hughes
Portraying the good and bad about her characters made them more equal--everybody has good and bad aspects
Saw opportunity in every struggle
"No, I do not weep at the world--I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife."
"At certain times I have no race, I am
Hurston and Blues Style
Part of the Harlem Renaissance was the Blues which radiated sorrow and the journey of overcoming struggles
She liked the idea of overcoming struggles, but chose not to dwell in the past
Bending the rules--> chose to look forward and move on
"Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me."
Baym, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W.
Norton, 2008. Print