Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston's seminal 1937 novel describes the life of Janie Starks, an African-American woman who comes of age in the Jim Crow South. Through several marriages and a host of life experiences, Janie learns what it means to be herself in a world that wants to define it for her. Hurston presents her characters' speech in the African-American vernacular of the South, which was controversial at the time, especially to her contemporary author Richard Wright (author of Black Boy and Native Son). Though a challenge to many modern readers in 2015 Washington State, the "home language" of these people adds poetic richness and a nobility to their lives. We'll read to analyze Janie's development as a complex character, and also how Hurston uses figurative language to establish tone and develop the novel's themes.
Reading at Home
Though we will read large portions in class, you will be expected to read at home to finish this novel. You will be assigned a portion of a chapter to finish for every class. If you want to hear an expert reader (Ruby Dee, celebrated American actress) narrate the story so you can hear the vernacular accurately, I have provided a link to an online audiobook. If you choose to use it, listen while you read along so that your eyes and ears are taking in the story at the same time. With practice, you may be able to read the story without