Event Title

The Critique Of Capitalism In Zora Neale Hurston’S Their Eyes Were Watching God

Location

SU 124

Start Date

19-4-2019 10:00 AM

Department

English

Session

Session 4

Description

In an article titled “Between Laughter and Tears” printed in the October 5, 1937 issue of the New Masses Richard Wright wrote about Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, along with Waters Turpin’s These Low Grounds in a joint anti-review of sorts. Wright’s review of both novels was based on the premise that neither really lent themselves to actual review at all “because neither of the two novels has a basic idea or theme that lends itself to significant interpretation.” That summary judgment from Wright was given in the second sentence of his review and, for the several aggrieved paragraphs that followed and made up the entirety of his review of both books, the novelist indeed remained consistent with that initial viewpoint and provided no significant interpretation of either work from his peers. Wright’s review claims that Hurston’s novel in particular, has no “theme”, no “basic idea” that would make it worthy of interpretation and closes his piece with a call for black writers to “now get over oversimplification!” Wright claimed that Hurston’s novel also has “no message, no thought.” The communist writer’s criticism of Hurston has in subsequent decades also been understood to be a critique of the novel as not at all political. In fact, Their Eyes Were Watching God has plenty of thinking going on in it and through its characters and its text does do some weighty theory work that is clearly political. Taking his own work in fiction and non-fiction into consideration with his anti-review of Hurston, there is good reason to believe that what Wright meant by “theme” is, necessarily, a political theme. Even defenders of Hurston’s art over the decades have often seem to concede to the notion that Their Eyes… is not a political work, and that she can and should be seen as a conservative figure, as they yet argue for her work’s worth. I intend to show that Hurston’s work proves weighty and politically assertive, even radical. My paper hopes to demonstrate how the novel is quite politically aware and vigorous in a way not even necessarily directly related to its obvious and compelling feminism that Wright seems to ignore. I contend that Their Eyes Were Watching God can be read as a critique of capitalism (which post-colonial scholars have tied inexorably to the projects of racism and the creation of race and gender itself). Thinkers who believe that art needn’t be political may be correct, and those who have argued that Hurston’s work is noteworthy even if it has no any political project have a point. It isn’t correct, however, to characterize Hurston and her work as either “conservative”, as I’ve read, or as apolitical, in light of not just the insistent and obvious feminism in Their Eyes Were Watching God, but also given the shattering the text does of some of capitalism’s most prevalent myths about itself.

Comments

Bradley Greenburg is the faculty sponsor for this project.

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Apr 19th, 10:00 AM

The Critique Of Capitalism In Zora Neale Hurston’S Their Eyes Were Watching God

SU 124

In an article titled “Between Laughter and Tears” printed in the October 5, 1937 issue of the New Masses Richard Wright wrote about Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, along with Waters Turpin’s These Low Grounds in a joint anti-review of sorts. Wright’s review of both novels was based on the premise that neither really lent themselves to actual review at all “because neither of the two novels has a basic idea or theme that lends itself to significant interpretation.” That summary judgment from Wright was given in the second sentence of his review and, for the several aggrieved paragraphs that followed and made up the entirety of his review of both books, the novelist indeed remained consistent with that initial viewpoint and provided no significant interpretation of either work from his peers. Wright’s review claims that Hurston’s novel in particular, has no “theme”, no “basic idea” that would make it worthy of interpretation and closes his piece with a call for black writers to “now get over oversimplification!” Wright claimed that Hurston’s novel also has “no message, no thought.” The communist writer’s criticism of Hurston has in subsequent decades also been understood to be a critique of the novel as not at all political. In fact, Their Eyes Were Watching God has plenty of thinking going on in it and through its characters and its text does do some weighty theory work that is clearly political. Taking his own work in fiction and non-fiction into consideration with his anti-review of Hurston, there is good reason to believe that what Wright meant by “theme” is, necessarily, a political theme. Even defenders of Hurston’s art over the decades have often seem to concede to the notion that Their Eyes… is not a political work, and that she can and should be seen as a conservative figure, as they yet argue for her work’s worth. I intend to show that Hurston’s work proves weighty and politically assertive, even radical. My paper hopes to demonstrate how the novel is quite politically aware and vigorous in a way not even necessarily directly related to its obvious and compelling feminism that Wright seems to ignore. I contend that Their Eyes Were Watching God can be read as a critique of capitalism (which post-colonial scholars have tied inexorably to the projects of racism and the creation of race and gender itself). Thinkers who believe that art needn’t be political may be correct, and those who have argued that Hurston’s work is noteworthy even if it has no any political project have a point. It isn’t correct, however, to characterize Hurston and her work as either “conservative”, as I’ve read, or as apolitical, in light of not just the insistent and obvious feminism in Their Eyes Were Watching God, but also given the shattering the text does of some of capitalism’s most prevalent myths about itself.