ZORA NEALE HURSTON
#CiteBlackWomen: Reading Zora Neale Hurston
This course examines the life and work of Zora Neale Hurston. Though best known as a novelist of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston was also a formally trained anthropologist, who wrote and experimented across a range of literary genres and cultural media, including: novels, short stories, plays, anthropological essays, political essays, autobiography, sound recordings and documentary film footage. In addition to Harlem, she spent a considerable part of her career traveling throughout the US South and the Caribbean collecting and theorizing black vernacular culture, such as folklore, music, dance, and religious expression. Bringing together literature, music, gender and sexuality studies, and performance studies, this course will explore the vast range of Hurston’s impressive oeuvre. Some questions we will take up include: What is the relationship between literature and anthropology in Hurston’s oeuvre? How does her work converge with and depart from that of her male contemporaries (e.g., Richard Wright, Sterling Brown, and Langston Hughes) who also wrote about black culture in the US South? How does she represent gender, and particularly black women’s experiences, in her work, and what is its significance for contemporary black feminism? How do Hurston’s depictions of “the folk” defy conventional understandings of black modernity? How does the emphasis on the US South and the Caribbean in her work offer an alternative geographic framework for exploring questions of diaspora? Can we trace linkages between her literary, sonic and visual projects, and if so, how might this function as a model for practicing and understanding interdisciplinarity and, more specifically, the project of Black Studies?