Zora Neale Hurston: “A Genius of the South”

Instructor:  Juliet Baker

  • Zoom Class
  • 6 Sessions, Wednesdays 10am – 11:30am, beginning September 23, 30, Oct 7, 14, 21, 28
  • Maximum of 20 in class
  • $20
  • Class full, registration closed

Born in 1891, Zora Neale Hurston, an African American, overcame tragedy to become an exceptional scholar, literary writer, ethnographer, and anthropologist of the mid-twentieth century. Of her many novels, short stories, plays, and even films, her novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God, (1937)” is perhaps her best known. In this course, we will pursue a close reading of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” with frequent references to her other literary works, to her life’s story, and to her professional scholarship. Hurston’s knowledge of southern and African American ethnography and folklore buttress much of her fiction.

Through her work, we learn a great deal about African American History— the Harlem Renaissance, the Negro artist’s constant struggle for recognition, the Jim Crow Era’s thwarting of Black enterprise, and, most recently, the machinations of slave trafficking. From 1928 until 1931, Hurston had extensively interviewed one of the last slaves to be brought from Africa to the American South on the final and outlawed slave ship, the Clotilda. The posthumously published manuscript, “Barracoon (2018)” is based on these interviews. The fact that so dramatic and important a story had to wait until 2018 to be published, along with the fact that Zora Neale Hurston died in 1960, a lonely and impoverished woman [one thinks here too of Paul Robeson and so many others] amplifies our current focus on addressing American racism— and ending it.

6 Sessions, Wednesdays 10am – 11:30am, beginning September 23, 30, Oct 7, 14, 21, 28, Maximum of 20 in class.

Download Introduction and Class Notes

Juliet Baker has studied and taught English language and literature for forty years. She hold a B.A. and M.A.in English and pursued a PhD at Berkeley. She has taught several well-received courses at Senior College. Driven by a penchant for close reading and for literature as a reflection of all human experience, she loves being associated with Senior College.