Possessing one of the most original voices in all of American letters, Zora Neale Hurston lived a life of high adventure, heartbreaking tragedy, and hard fought triumph. Best known today for her classic 1937 novel, "Their Eyes Were Watching God," Hurston was also a pioneering anthropologist and folklorist, playwright, journalist, and a fiercely independent critic of American life.
Focusing on her development as a writer, we shall follow Hurston from her childhood in the segregated South, through her participation in the Harlem Renaissance and her work with Franz Boas, to the first stirrings of the Civil Rights era. Special attention will be paid to her groundbreaking fieldwork in the Deep South and the Caribbean in the 1920s and 1930s, during which time she became an initiate of hoodoo priests in New Orleans, documented African folkways in the highlands of Jamaica, and drank in the blues and rough humor of the sawmill camps and jook joints of the Florida scrub.
Readings for the course will include a Hurston biography and selections from her writings. Class sessions will feature both lectures and group discussions, while the central writing assignment of the course will be the completion, by each student, of a major research paper.