African American Literature Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 19 May 2017

African American Literature

Zora Neale Hurston is included in almost every discussion of the Harlem Renaissance as a major contributor to the movement. She has inspired several essay length literary works that significantly discuss her contribution to the movement itself. These essays include Mary V. Dearborn’s “Black Women Authors and the Harlem Renaissance,” Sharon Dean and Erlene Steston’s “Flower-Dust and springtime: Harlem Renaissance Women,” John Lowe’s “Hurston, Humor and the Harlem Renaissance,” and Ralph D. Story’s “Gender and Ambition: Zora Neale Hurston in the Harlem Renaissance. ” (Champion 167)

Hurston has also inspired many authors to create book length works speaking of her work. Those titles include Robert E. Hemenway’s Zora Neale Hurston: a Literary Biography, Lillie P. Howard’s Zora Neal Hurston, and John Low’s Jump at the Sun: Zora Neale Hurston. These various titles contain insightful studies of the author’s life and writing style, as well as some contain a comprehensive compilation of Hurston’s short stories and essays. (Champion 167) Hurston’s work was not always received well when initially published. It is believed this was because most reviewers during this time period were male.

Many saw Hurston as politically conservative and became upset because she was “supported by white patrons. ” (Champion 166) Her work titled Their Eyes Were Watching God received a negative review when the reviewer was quoted as saying that he believes it “posed situations irrelevant to African American Struggles. ” (Champion 166) After her death, her work seemed to have been forgotten, however it once again emerged in the 1970s and 1980s when she was rediscovered and reassessed. Much of her work has been published for the first time or reprinted and scholars have began examining it from the “feminist, cultural and political” perspective.

(Champion 166) Hurston died in 1960, after she spent her last few years living in poverty; she was unable to make a living from her writings during her lifetime. She had been working on a book titled The Life of Herod the Great, but it was never completed. Her death was basically unnoticed by the world and she was buried in an unmarked grave. (Dickinson) The rediscovery of her work has finally earned her a rightful place among literary greats. As many scholarly subjects, Andrew Crosland points out that it is important to remember to “place Hurston’s works in historical and cultural context to gain broader perspectives.

Her works remain visible reminders of tribulations of being a black woman in a white and masculine dominated society. ” (Champion 167)

Works Cited

Balshaw, Maria. Looking for Harlem Urban Aesthetics in African American Literature. Sterling, Va: Pluto P, 2000. Boyd, Valerie. “About Zora Neale Hurston. ” The Official Zora Neale Hurston Website. 2007. <http://www. zoranealehurston. com/biography. html>. Champion, Laurie, and Emmanuel S. Nelson. American Women Writers, 1900-1945 a Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn: Greenwood P, 2000.

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