The rediscovery of Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, first published in 1937 but subsequently out-of-print for decades, marks one of the most dramatic chapters in African-American literature and Women's Studies. Its popularity owes much to the lyricism of the prose, the pitch-perfect rendition of black vernacular English, and the memorable characters--most notably, Janie Crawford. Collecting the most widely cited and influential essays published on Hurston's classic novel over the last quarter century, this Casebook presents contesting viewpoints by Hazel Carby, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Barbara Johnson, Carla Kaplan, Daphne Lamothe, Mary Helen Washington, and Sherley Anne Williams. The volume also includes a statement Hurston submitted to a reference book on twentieth-century authors in 1942. As it records the major debates the novel has sparked on issues of language and identity, feminism and racial politics, A Casebook charts new directions for future critics and affirms the classic status of the novel.
While this subject demands a full-length study, I can summarize its salient
aspects here. The debate about the register of the black voice assumed two
poles. By the end of the Civil War, the first pole of the debate, the value of the