Zora Neale Hurston A Rhetorical Pictorial History of a Great American Writer and Ethnographer
“Bizarre Beginnings” “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.” • Born Jan. 7, 1891… probably • Father = Preacher & Mayor • Eatonville, Fla., = the first incorporated black community in America • Age 13 = mother died • "passed around the family like a bad penny“ said her father • Moved between Memphis, Nashville, and Eatonville • At age 16 = traveling theatrical company First known picture of Zora, on left
“old lands for the making of me” • itinerant life, little schooling • Morgan Academy, the high school division of Morgan College, now Morgan State University. • Though 26 years old at enrollment, she listed her age as sixteen and 1901 as her birth date—from then on she was always 10 years younger! • Howard University in Washington, D.C.—a historically black college. • inspired by professor Alain Locke Taken while at Bernard College
“I want to frame their dreams into words” “The force from somewhere in Space which commands you to write in the first place, gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded. There is no agony like bearing an untold story.” --ZHN • Many stories published in college • "Spunk," caught the attention of such poets as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen of the Harlem Renaissance • Transfer from Howard to Barnard College in NYC • Being in New York City she became a recognized member of the Harlem Renaissance movement
“…to the tropical lands of my birth” • In 1927 Hurston received a research fellowship to work with Franz Boas, a well-known anthropologist. • immersed herself in the communities she studied • A logging community in the Everglades (She won over the camp… but later chased away…) • New Orleans collecting folklore (and allegedly become a voodoo doctor…) • Basis for her first anthropological work, Mules and Men, and subsequent ones: Tell My Horse and Moses, Man of the Mountain • Wrote TEWWG on the island of Haiti while studying on a Guggenheim Fellowship (from 1936-1938) Hurston researching in the Everglades
What is vernacular language? “De way you talkin’ you’d think de folks in dis town didn’t do nothin’ in de bed cept praise de Lawd” (Hurston 3). vernacular= ordinary or spoken language; the everyday language of a group or class of people in a country or region, as opposed to the official, formal, or literary language used; nonstandard language; a language or characteristic of a period or a place; often considered slang The Latin word vernaculus means ‘native’ Thinking as a folklorist, ethnographer, and documenter of oral and musical traditions, Hurston believed to best represent her southern characters, she should write the way they actually speak.
The Pros & Cons of Vernacular Language • Caricatured black culture, one already exploited / ridiculed by mainstream theater and literature. • Richard Wright, “ Miss Hurston voluntarily continues in her novel the tradition which was forced upon the Negro in the theater, that is, the minstrel technique that makes ‘white folk’ laugh.” • Many people taken aback by this spoken form when actually written -- odd phonetic fashion. • Many (whites) did not appreciate language being “abused” and considered it a slang form of “real” English • Hurston's stylistic choices in dialogue influenced by academic experiences as an ethnographer. • Represented real speech patterns of the period • More recently, critics praised Hurston for her artful capture of the actual spoken idiom of the day—she documented history through language! • Many realized she was capturing an evolving southern dialect, not just slang
Let’s Read: Turn to page 2 We need two volunteers to read this short passage, come on up!
The Harlem Renaissance • A 1920s movement across every form of art: literature, drama, studio arts, dance, music • An exploration of black culture, pride, and often anger at social injustice
“ready for the touch of one fiery iron” “Harlem is vicious. Modernism. BangClash. Vicious the way it’s made, can you stand such beauty. So violent and transforming.” –Amiri Baraka • The Great Northern Migration, 1910-1930s • With this migration came the great musical talent and creative energy of African Americans—traditions deeply rooted in oral African heritages and cultures • Harlem became known as an art center for African Americans • Finally their creations were published, distributed, and accepted by a broad range of audiences
“No fiend to stand between my Southern Song” • Key theme of the Harlem Renaissance was the notion of "twoness" = a divided awareness of one's identity. • Other themes were alienation, the use of folk material, and the use of the blues tradition. • Hurston held political views that different from other Harlem Renaissance writers. • Not a black communist-sympathizers, • Supported the Back to Africa movement • No focus on the civil right movement and racial injustice • Hurston's work fostered by the Harlem Renaissance but extended beyond its themes and political agenda. • It extends beyond fashionable themes
“Does my Haughtiness offend you?” • Her last novel, Seraph on the Suwanee, was VERY apolitical -- a tale of poor whites struggling in rural Florida's citrus industry, black characters recede to the background. • Scathing, & false accusations that she molested a boy forced her to retreat to small-town Florida for the rest of her life. • Leading black figure of libertarian Old Right; 1952 she actively promoted the conservative presidential candidate, Robert Taft. • Opposed the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v Board of Education case of 1954 desegregating public schools • Her letter ”Court Order Can't Make the Races Mix,” published in the Orlando Sentinel in August 1955 -- Hurston's last public intervention
“You make write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies…” • Hurston died of heart disease in 1960, penniless in obscurity, she was buried in a meager, unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida • BUT… African-American novelist Alice Walker and literary scholar Charlotte Hunt found and marked the grave in 1973 • In Search of Zora Neale Hurston, published in March 1975 of Ms. Magazine, sparked a Hurston Renaissance! • Her re-discovery coincided with the popularity and critical acclaim of authors such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and A. and M. Walker • Many aspects of black culture remain preserved today because of Hurston.
…But still, like dust, I’ll rise! • Thanks to Alice Walker her grave is now a marked and widely visited spot (by dorky English teachers across America) • Countless celebrations in Hurston’s honor occur, the biggest ones in Fort Pierce, Florida & Flagstaff, Arizona • Oprah ‘s TV movie staring the first African American woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress, says a lot about her legacy.
Understanding Context & Setting! Their Eyes Were Watching God
Literature is a product of the essential elements of an author’s life Context & Settingthey’re good chums… Often, elements of context are reflected in the setting, characters, and conflicts of a text Author CONTEXT! Surrounds the author Intended Message or, THEME! TEXT Audience
Setting: Narrative Time AND place in which the story takes place In this Story? • Time • Flashback: the middle section of the novel is all flashback, from Janie’s childhood to present (late 1800s-ish – 1930ish) • Present time in the narrative: after Janie shoots Tea Cake and goes back to Eatonville (1930ish) • Place: south, central Florida
Where in the world… Lake Okeechobee
Context: Author Authors usually write about the worlds they know and understand, that which surrounds them is their context. When you think of context, think of: • Historical context the era; preceding, current, future events • Political context is there and agenda? • Social context norms, expectations, rules of society • Cultural context ethnic, racial, tribal, national backdrop • Institutional context guiding ethos of a group, company, business, school, etc… • Economic context does money matter? who’s got it? who doesn’t? how is money related to power? • Geographic context where in the world? what are the natural elements that help or hinder? continent, country, city, neighborhood, building, room • Linguistic context what’s the language? does this language show power structures? what register is used? how does this language reveal any other of the contexts?
Context • Consider how the author weaves in elements of her/his context into the story • How has this context shaped the writing? • Why is it important? • Are there any underlying messages related to context?
What Contexts are Important in this novel? • History: • After Civil War, pre-Civil Rights Movement • Pre Woman’s Rights Movement • Social context: • Eatonville = 1st Incorporated African-American town • African-American Migrant workers in the South, a common means of subsistence, “sharecropping” • Defined gender roles • Cultural context: Music, language, harvesting • Linguistic Context: Southern Black Vernacular • Geographic context: Florida, Lake Okeechobee real hurricane in 1928!
Novel Review • Catalyst: a person or thing that precipitates an event or change • Epiphany: a sudden intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience; a realization
Example: Janie’s 1st Epiphany Catalyst Epiphany Janie clearly states her epiphany, exclaiming, “Aw, aw! Ah’m colored!” (9), when she realizes she is black and thus different from the white kids she’s grown up with. • The photographer comes to town and takes a picture, then shows it to Janie, marking the first time she’s seen a picture of herself.
Using your DNBs… • At your table, list Janie’s epiphanies throughout the narrative. Mark the specific moment of epiphany and note the catalyst for change. • Take 5 minutes to BRAINSTORM! • Consider how elements of context and structure come up in this list.
Using Your Collective Knowledge,design one huge timeline of Janie’s catalysts and epiphanies • Determine together the MOST important epiphanies. • With every epiphany, include quotations proving these are moments of epiphany. • Make the most important epiphany obvious! • Your timeline should NOT be a line… think metaphorically, symbolically, pictorially, creatively… • Every single person should be thinking and working; • all students need to write something on the timeline. • No one can sit in a chair!