Thursday, October 16, 2008

Zora Neale Hurston

As you read this book you should be aware of a few things:

1) Zora was an Anthropologist who immersed herself in the folklore, music and religion (including Voodoo - or Hoodoo) of Southern African-American Society. You should read "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" as an introduction to her, and look up one of her pieces of forklore - she published two books of folklore during her life. One of them happened to include Voodoo in Haiti and zombies. Her fiction arises from her folklore collecting.
2) Zora grew up in Eatonville - the town in THEIR EYES WHERE WATCHING GOD.
3) She claimed to have written the book in one month after the break-up of a relationship. She claims to have poured all the love and heartache of the relationship into the novel. You might look up Eatonville on the web (NOTE: It's outside of Orlando - I moved to Orlando and worked at Disney because of this novel. I had to see Zora's hometown).
4) Zora lied about her birth. She was ten years older than what she claimed. This would have made her about 45 when she wrote THEIR EYES WHERE WATCHING GOD.
5) She was a member of the Harlem Renaissance - considered the greatest writer of the Renaissance by some, but her books weren't published until after the renaissance was over - and even after some of the members of the Renaissance (poor Wallace Thurman) were dead. She and Langston Hughes wrote a play together and were good friends, but something happened between them and so when she left New York in the 30s her connection with the Renaissance was gone. If you know nothing of the Harlem Renaissance you need to do some brief research.
6) Think about why she uses a Southern African-American vernacular. Think who tells the story. Is there an American Dream here? Mark her imagery, symbolism and metaphors. Think beyond them. What about the title?

Okay - I've read every book Hurston wrote and Their Eyes Were Watching God both as an undergrad and as a graduate, and I helped teach a college course on The Harlem Renaissance. So - you're going to have fun!