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Context for Their Eyes Were Watching God

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1 Context for Their Eyes Were Watching God
By Zora Neal Hurston

2 Historical Context 1865 - Slaves freed; end of Civil War
Late 1800s, early 1900s - South: Jim Crow laws, sharecropping, segregation, lynching, KKK, racism The Great Migration Early 1900s - North: unemployment, immigration, racism 1926: W.E.B. Dubois’ “Criteria of Negro Art” Late 1920s – early 1930s - Harlem Renaissance Their Eyes Were Watching God

3 Battling Racism with the “Negro Uplift Program”
Early 1900s: Segregation, social issues, racism W.E.B. Dubois - “Criteria of Negro Art” “Uplift program” African Americans only portrayed only as model citizens

4 Harlem Renaissance Great Migration New Negro Movement
Urban areas in Northern U.S. Centered in Harlem Artistic and intellectual flowering of African-American culture

5 Harlem Renaissance: Big Names
Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Countee Cullen Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie

6 Harlem Renaissance Response to Negro Uplift Program
Instead of only representing Africans as model citizens, expose racial oppression Or, completely rejected Uplift Program FIRE!! - represented the life of prostitutes, etc. (Hurston)

7 Hurston’s Controversial Work
FIRE!! sold poorly Some thought it represented African Americans negatively Used dialect, represented Southern communities as she found them, and depicted female sexuality

8 Their Eyes Were Watching God
Published 1937 Mixed reviews Harshly criticized by some Uneducated characters Dialect Lacked serious social criticism?

9 Wright’s Review of Their Eyes
In Richard Wright’s review of Their Eyes he states the following: That the book lacks a “sharp analysis of the social background” That the book lacks “a basic idea or theme that lends itself to significant interpretation” That “Miss Hurston seems to have no desire whatever to move in the direction of serious fiction ”

10 Dialect in Literature Dialect in literature: unsophisticated?
Dialect - a form of a language that is used by a particular group of the language's speakers and that is distinguished by differences in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation

11 The Debate over Dialect: Countee Cullen vs. Langston Hughes
Harlem’s 2 most prominent poets Cullen rejected the use of black dialect in his poetry Hughes used it, especially in his “jazz poems” Cullen harshly critical of Hughes

12 These Four Writers on Dialect
Cullen: no Hughes: yes Wright: no Hurston: yes

13 Standard English Standard English –
(also known as Standard Written English or SWE) - the form of English most widely accepted as being clear and proper

14 Accent Dialect v. Accent
Accent – a difference in pronunciation among different forms of a language Dialect includes accent but also includes vocabulary and grammar

15 “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me.” ~Zora Neale Hurston

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