Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, although well received in its own day, was largely forgotten until the 1970s. The same thing was true of its author, who died in abject poverty. Fortunately, both this novel and most of Hurston’s other works were eventually rediscovered, and Their Eyes is now seen as one of the most important books in twentieth-century American literature. This volume explores the book from numerous and diverse perspectives, including race, gender, and class; place it in a variety of historical and intellectual contexts; and give full attention to its remarkable artistry.
This volume, like all others in the Critical Insights series, is divided into several sections. It begins with an “About This Volume” essay by Editor Robert C. Evans, followed by an introductory piece, “Finding Zora,” by contributor Genevieve West, which offers a comprehensive introduction to the titular novel and explores the ways Hurston’s works were read and received during her own lifetime. This is followed by a Biography of Zora Neale Hurston, written by Angela Tredell.
A collection of four critical contexts essays are intended to treat the novel (1) from a historical vantage point, (2) in terms of its critical reception, (3) using a specific critical lens, and (4) by comparing and contrasting it with another important work. This section opens with an article by Sarah M. Iler titled, “George S. Schuyler and Zora Neale Hurston: Two Unusual Voices from the Harlem Renaissance,” followed by a piece written by volume editor Robert C. Evans, “George S. Schuyler and Zora Neale Hurston: An Overview of Their Relations, Similarities, and Comments on Each Other.” The following two articles are written by Joyce Ahn and Trudier Harris respectively. The first, “The Critical Reception of Their Eyes Were Watching God: An Overview of Recent Commentary,” offers a particular critical lens by examining discussions of Their Eyes Were Watching God from the 2010s. The final essay, “From Jody’s Point of View” delves into the treatment of main character Janie’s husband, Jody Starks, both within the novel itself and in outside commentary.
Following these four Critical Context essays is the Critical Readings section of this book, which contains the following essays:
- A Second Eatonville Anthology: Original Documents Concerning Hurston’s Hometown, Joe Clark, Russell C. Calhoun, et. al.
- “The Negro in American Fiction” (1921) and Comments on Zora Neale Hurston (1937), Benjamin Brawley
- Hurston’s Developing Reputation from the 1920s to the 1950s: New Information, Robert C. Evans
- Early Reviews of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God: New Findings, Robert C. Evans
- The Oprah Winfrey Film of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jordan Bailey
- Bonnie Rattner’s Dramatic Adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jordan Bailey
- Critical Responses to the Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun Documentary Film, Kelly Snyder
- Upended by Hurston’s Chutzpah, Carla Kaplan
In the final section, Resources, easy-to-follow lists are provided to help guide the reader through important dates and moments in the author’s life. A selection of further reading is then provided. Each essay in Critical Insights: Their Eyes Were Watching God includes a list of Works Cited and detailed endnotes. Also included in this volume is a Chronology of Zora Neale Hurston’s Life, a list of Works by Zora Neale Hurston, a Bibliography, biographies of the Editors and Contributors, and an alphabetical Index.
The Critical Insights Series distills the best of both classic and current literary criticism of the world’s most studies literature. Edited and written by some of academia’s most distinguished literary scholars, Critical Insights: Their Eyes Were Watching God provides authoritative, in-depth scholarship that students and researchers will rely on for years. This volume is destined to become a valuable purchase for all.
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