Directions: Choose one of the following topics and respond in a focused and detailed essay of appoximately 4 pages.
1. Combining techniques of formalist analysis and your knowledge of Modernist themes, write an interpretation of one poem we study between March 52 and April 8. In other words, conduct a close reading of the poem to identify its meaning (paying attention to the poet's techniques, structure, and language); then place it in the context that you derive collectively from other works you've studied this semester.
2. Discuss the structural relation of one section of The Sound and the Fury to the rest of the novel. Consider such elements as narrative voice and style, characters, and the time of the setting in relation to the total time covered in the novel. How, finally, does the section modify the meaning of the total novel?
3.. Trace the growth of Janie's consciousness in Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, paying particular attention to how her growth develops through her successive relations to the three men: Logan Killicks, Joe Starks, and Teacake. (Other elements may well come into your discussion--Hurston's use of tree imagery, for example. And though certainly not required to complete the assignment, thinking of Janie compared with Stein's Melanctha might prove fruitful).
4. In his afterword to Their Eyes Were Watching God,
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., writes about, among other things, Hurston's use
of a "divided voice."
Discuss key passages from Their Eyes Were Watching God to illustrate the point Gates is making and add your own interpretation of Hurston's accomplishment. The passage from Gates follows. I have also included the passage from Du Bois to which he refers.
The representation of [Hurston's] sources of language seems to be her principal concern, as she constantly shifts back and forth between her "literate" narrator's voice and a highly idiomatic black voice found in wonderful passages of free indirect discourse. Hurston moved in and out of these distinct voices effortlessly, seamlessly, just as she does in Their Eyes to chart Janie's coming to consciousness. It is this usage of a divided voice, a double voice unreconciled, that strikes me as her great achievement, a verbal analogue of her double experiences as a woman in a male-dominated world and as a black person in a nonblack world, a woman writer's revision of W. E. B. Du Bois's metaphor of "double-consciousness" for the hyphenated African-American. (Gates 203)
After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, --an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,--this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a mesage for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughtly in his face. (Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks, 1903)