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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

"Her Tongue's a Powerful Muscle, If Exercised": Female Voice, as Narrated by Faulkner and Hurston

Critics have made much of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God as either flawed or a failure, due to what has often been perceived as Janie’s failure to narrate her own life story. I argue that Janie successfully narrates her story deliberately through the oral tradition. The text eliminates Janie’s attachments to oppressive men, and exhibits a model for women making their voices heard through female alliances. The text upends the hierarchical position of marriage, disposing of all three of Janie’s husbands, who, to varying degrees, internalize white male privilege. I emphasize Janie’s successful narration of her story by comparing Their Eyes with William Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses, and his narration of women through absentia. The sparsity with which he writes about, let alone gives voice to women in the novel, presents an effective characterization of women’s lack of power in white male privileged society during the time in which, and about which, he writes. Faulkner’s narrative calls attention to the white male privilege of “writing it down.” I explore the notion demonstrated through both books, though achieved through different narrative structures, that woman’s power, articulated in these two works as voice, cannot co-exist with white male privilege.

Presenter: April Daniels (College at Brockport) --
Topic: English I - Panel
Location: 14 Hartwell
Time: 2 pm (Session III)