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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Critique of Capitalist & Racist Logic in Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Cepeda, Elias, M.A., Northeastern Illinois University, 2020, 60; 27835694
Abstract (Summary)

Zora Neale Hurston’s wining career and legacy has had many acts. Through it all - mainstream popularity, critical acclaim as well as vitriolic judgment and then virtual disappearance, rediscovery and renewed acclaim – a narrative that Hurston’s work is either not political or quite conservative has endured. Both critics and admirers of Hurston’s work, like her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, have long both fundamentally proffered or at least accepted this characterization. In this framework, the import of work like Their Eyes…then comes from its beautiful language, for example, and not from any political thinking from Hurston. This placement of her work outside of the political realm stands in contrast to the position held by many of her counterparts in the Harlem Renaissance, whose writing is often viewed as more explicitly political than Hurston’s.

One such contemporary of Hurston, Richard Wright, excoriated her and Their Eyes…in a 1937 review, alleging a complete lack of political sensibility in the text. This paper will make a case that Their Eyes… is not only a political text, but one that can be read as a critique of capitalist and racist logic and values. To do this, we contrast Wrights claims with the actual text of Hurston’s book. Then, we close-read the text of Wright’s review to reveal indications of ideological blindness that could help explain his failure to accurately characterize Hurston’s work as political.

More broadly, this paper uses that review from Wright and Hurston’s novel as an entry point to examine how what is and is not considered politically substantive within the context of Black American 20th century literature can be heavily influenced by patriarchal ideology in literary criticism. The paper’s final sections focus on thinking from Smith, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and bell hooks to begin to show what Black feminist perspectives might reveal about the political nature of Hurston’s work that is missed in analyses from male thinkers like Wright.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Greenburg, Bradley
Commitee: Poll, Ryan, Eze, Chielozona, Scherman, Timothy, Greenburg, Bradley
School: Northeastern Illinois University
Department: MA English, Literature Concentration
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: MAI 81/11(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Ethnic studies, American literature
Keywords: American literature, Ethnic studies, Harlem Renaissance, Hurston, Zora Neale
Publication Number: 27835694
ISBN: 9798641899350
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