Zora Neale Hurston was born in Eatonville, Florida, January 7, 1903 and died on January 28, 1960 in Fort Pierce. When Hurston lived there, Eatonville was one of the rare all-black towns - and is still 89% African American. Forced to leave school at the age of thirteen to take care of siblings, she was still able to get an associates degree from Howard University and to receive a B.A. degree in anthropology from Barnard. She did graduate work at Columbia University.
Her careers included employment as an actress, maid, librarian, and college professor. However, she is best known for her work as a writer and folklorist. She was one of the most important authors of the Harlem Renaissance Movement, a major Black literary and cultural movement in New York's Harlem during the 1920's. The Harlem Renaissance movement stimulated pride and confidence in Black life and culture. Among the talented writers, musicians, playwrights, etc, congregated in Harlem at this time were Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, Eubie Blake, and James Weldon Johnson.
Hurston is said to have influenced the writing of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Ralph Ellison. Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered her finest work of fiction. This work is controversial since some critics feel that she glosses over Black oppression and focuses on the woman or individual. Others say that this novel is a celebration of Black language and cultural heritage. Hurston died in poverty. Alice Walker (The Color Purple) arranged for a gravestone for Hurston in her beloved Eatonville.
Video: Take 5 minutes to watch the video and learn about the life and times of Zora Neale Hurston. Also listen to Zora Neale Hurston read and sing songs she collected in her work for the WPA sponsored by Florida Folklife project.
CHARACTERS | SETTINGSetting: Their Eyes Were Watching God takes place in Eatonville, Florida, in the 1920s. Eatonville is and was a completely black self-governing community. Characters include:Janie Crawford (Killicks Starks Woods) - a strong and passionate main character in search of self-definition.
Nanny Crawford - Janie's grandmother born and raised a slave and determined that Janie will break the cycle of oppression of black women.
Logan Killicks - Janie's first farmer husband.
Joe Starks - Janie's politically ambitious and successful second husband.
Tea Cake Woods - Janie's third husband. The husband with whom Janie finds real love.
Phoeby Watson - The friend to whom Janie is telling the story of her life.
Librarian talk . . . About Getting Started!
As you begin, narrow your topic to a size that you can manage. Consider keywords that will help you find the information you need. These can be names of people, literary works, events, or broader identifying terms. Use keywords for locating information in the library catalog, electronic databases, and on the internet.
Topics to consider
- Personal freedom
- Spiritual vs materialistic value
- Self identification
- Use of story-telling framework - story within a story
- Quest for life's experiences
- Search for autonomy
- Struggle of a woman to be regarded as a person
- Model of female development
- Black folklore and folk culture
- Humor in black literature
FINDING BOOKS IN THE CATALOG
Librarian Talk . . . About Books!Many books are available both online and in the library. So much has been written about this novel, books will be one of your best resources.The best way to find books about Hurston's work is to search the library catalog. Choose "Subject Keyword" from the menu options and type in Hurston. This will bring up all the subjects which have Hurston in them. Be creative and try several searches. Find a common Library of Congress number and browse the shelves. This is a good way to discover books you may not find in the catalog.
Apply online for a library card. Use your card to:
1) Place a Hold on a book and have it sent to the library closest to you
2) Access journal and reference databases from home, and
3) Access Online Book Database (eBook Collection).
- The catalog is online.
- Online books are available in eBook Collection. Use your library card to log in. Search Hurston, Zora Neale, then use the FIND to search inside the books using your keywords. Very neatSearch in the EBSCO eBook Collection and use Frankenstein or Shelley as a Keyword search.You can also make searches in the eBook Collection more specific, since a keyword search will search through the entire text of the book!
Catalog terms you might consider using Subject Keyword are:
Zora Neale Hurston | Their Eyes Were Watching God
African American Writers | Harlem Renaissance | American Women Writers Characters in Literature | Women in Literature | Self-ActualizationCritical Information in Books
V. 7, 30, 61
Contemporary Literary Criticism [CLC] This multi-volume set contains excerpts from critical essays in books and journals. Use these volumes to 1) select a topic or theme, 2) find the full article or essay in the library, and 3) locate other articles and books from the "Further Reading" section. Also available in the database, Literature Resource Center. REF PS221.T834
Twentieth Century American Criticism This multi-volume set has biographical and general critical entries for most important American authors of this century. It is helpful for an overview. Literature Suppressed on Sexual Grounds This Banned Books, Facts of File volume provides censorship history about the novel.
Biographical Information in Books
CALL NUMBER TITLE DESCRIPTION REF PN41.D5
Vol 51, 86
Dictionary of Literary Biography DLB is a multi-volume work which provides detailed biographical sketches of the authors' literary writings as well as general critical commentary. It is a most useful collection. PS3515.U789Z465 Dust Tracks on a Road If you have time, this book is recommended. Their Eyes Were Watching God is said to be autobiographical. Read this autobiography by Hurston and draw your own conclusions. Contemporary Authors Online CAO provides a biography and bibliography of the author.
Character Information in Books
REF PS374.C43M35 Major Characters in American Fiction Long-ish entries on the most important characters. PN56.4.H37 Characters in 20th-Century Literature Brief entry on the characters in this book under Hurston.
Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism Use the index to find entries on Hurston, Harlem Renaissance, Folklore, and other topics of interest to you. REF F209.E53 Encyclopedia of Southern Culture Great entries on Southern Folklife, Women's Life, and quite a bit of information throughout on Hurston. Worth spending time with. REF NX511.N4H37 The Harlem Renaissance: A Historical Dictionary for the Era This book attempts to give brief biographical sketches and entries explaining the culture of Harlem. It references books and articles where more information can be found. The Eatonville Anthology Short Stories for Students.Vol. 1. Provides a character overview, a critical essay, a work overview, a biography, and a plot summary.
FINDING JOURNAL ARTICLES
Librarian Talk . . . About Finding Journal and Newspaper Articles!
To find articles in newspapers and journals, letters, reference books, illustrations, photographs and more, use your Lone Star College System library card to login to the following databases. If you find an interesting article that is not full-text, please give the correct bibliographic information to our Reference Librarians and they will see that you get the article. They will need full bibliographic information - and your name and address. Send your phone number as well, so they can contact you if they need to. There is some overlap of articles in the following databases. However, we encourage you to use more than one. All are excellent sources for this topic. [Get a card]
JSTOR Search for scholarly journal articles in literature. Use the advanced search page for the best search results, and put keywords in separate search boxes. Limit your search to Articles and select Language and Literature from the disciplines list for more focused results. Project Muse Begin your search by entering Their Eyes Were Watching God hurston in the search box. Don't use quotation marks around the title. You will bring up a long list of articles. From this broad search, you can Modify a search in order to add keywords from your thesis - click on the + mark to add search boxes. This database contains scholarly sources. The articles will be of the appropriate academic level for your research and they will be full text. Literature Resource Center Includes articles from Contemporary Literature Criticism, Dictionary of Literary Biography, and Twayne's Masterworks books, as well as some full text journal articles. A good database to begin your research, locate major themes or topics to develop your thesis.
Bloom's Literary Database Online | This database is a collection of many analytical essays discussing literature. These essays, originally published in print form, are accessible now for research online. Find information about Their Eyes Were Watching God, or read about the life of Zora Neale Hurston and her body of work.
Academic Search Complete Index to journals articles, some full text. Limit to "scholarly (peer reviewed) journals" to find articles from appropriate resources.
Films on Demand | Biographical film segments about Hurston.
Librarian Talk . . . Evaluating the Internet!
The Internet will be a wonderful source of original documents. Browse the sites we have suggested below. Remember, you do want to find reputable sites. Ones from .edu, .org, .gov may be best. Think about:
- Accuracy - The information should be researched and show proof that it has been.
- Source - Who wrote the information? Look at the domain. .edu .gov. org .net are valid research sources.
- Authority - What are the author's credentials? (Don't quote from another college freshman's paper.)
- Coverage - Does the page have the information you need for your research?
- Objectivity - If a work is biased, use it - just make sure your professor knows YOU know. And offer both sides of issues, where applicable.
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Official website presented by the estate of Zora Neal Hurston.
- Zora Neale Hurston- bibliography
- Use this biography and bibliography to learn more about Ms. Hurston and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
- Zora Neale Hurston, American Author
- Biographical information, personal observations, and links to other Hurston pages.
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Teacher's resource file - e-texts, web sites, audio recordings.with plenty of links and ideas for researchers.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God
- Especially for teachers, this has great information about writing on this book.
- Perspectives on Gossip
- Comparison on the use of gossip in novels from three authors, including Hurston.
- Analysis to help you understand the writings from Sylvan Learning Center. Students, remember, Professor Minton knows all of these sites and sources well!
- Wired for Books
- On June 29, 1997 professors of literature at Ohio University, Marilyn Atlas and Edgar Whan, came to Studio B in the Ohio University Telecommunications Center to record a discussion about the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. They were joined by guest scholar Annette Oxindine of Wright State University. These are the very interesting transcripts of the conversation.
- The Harlem Renaissance: 1919-1930
- Information from many sources about the Harlem Renaissance.
- Black Onyx: Black Folktales
- An essay and teaching unit on black folktales. Bibliography included.
- Documenting the American South
- This site is one of the best for finding information about the south - it contains original documents, essays, and much much more. Search Hurston and other terms.
LIBRARIAN and FACULTY REVIEWS
The Lone Star College-Kingwood Librarians bring your their comments after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God.
The words bubble and tumble over each other like poetry. When Janie tells her story, you forget that she's using dialect and just want, like her friend Phoeby, to hear the rest of the story. Phoeby sits on the porch listening, not daring to move because she doesn't want the story to end. You'll keep on turning the pages, unable to put the book down because Janie might leave and you've got to hear the rest of the story. What is the story? It's about love and change and a woman's place in the world.
Janie's tale has just about everything: love, sex, violence, and suspense; comedy and tragedy; and unforgettable imagery and dialogue. What more could anyone want?
--Professor Joseph Minton
"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Such a memorable first line! Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is a story within a story. Janey tells Phoeby Watson the story of her marriages and, through her telling, we watch as she searches for self-definition. While this book is the story of a black woman living in a black community, I really liked it because Hurston ignores the (stereo)typical ethnic issues and writes a story of a woman's life and her personal growth. And while the book is written in rural southern black dialect, instead of slowing me down, I felt the lyrical dialog made the characters come to life. I loved this love story and will read it over and over. My copy is NOT for re-sale.
Janie longs for love. After two lonely and loveless marriages she meets and marries Tea Cake. He is the love of her life. "He drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place." But Janie's joy is short-lived. They have been together for two years when they get caught in a hurricane, and Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog in an attempt to rescue Janie. What happened next? "... the sun went down."
GETTING HELP FOR YOUR ASSIGNMENT
Librarian Talk about getting help!
Support for a successful paper is more than finding the right resources. Putting it all together takes time and effort. Sometimes it takes additional help from the librarians or tutors. Please consider the following resources if you need additional help. Remember, the expert on the assignment is your professor; use your LSC Online in-class email to contact her.
Citing Sources Using MLA Style | Lone Star College-Kingwood Library guide. Examples of both paper and electronic citations.
Avoiding Plagiarism | Excellent information and guide on how to avoid plagiarism from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.
University of Texas Copyright Crash Course | This helpful guide on copyright is suggested by Lone Star College-Kingwood Teaching and Learning Center.
The Learning Center | Check the TLC hours for in-house tutoring.
Author Peggy Whitley 11/99 | Revised 7/13 MM