Sweat Essay - Critical Essays

Critical Overview

Fire!! received a critical review of mild disinterest. Hurston’s biographer Robert Hemenway explains that the editors planned, even hoped, for Du Bois to dislike it because he had previously condemned the notion of apolitical writing and his disfavor would confirm that the magazine was indeed ‘‘pure.’’ But Du Bois’s NAACP journal simply ignored Fire!!, aside from a bland endorsement, leaving the editors actually brainstorming for ways of making the magazine more offensive. Hemenway writes that Benjamin Brawley, ‘‘a pillar of the black literary establishment,’’ disliked it intensely. Alain Locke only bothered to censure the magazine’s ‘‘effete echoes of contemporary decadence’’ but later praised its ‘‘anti-Puritanism.’’ This critical response was the final factor, after all of the difficulties in publication, that led to the magazine’s collapse: It was not received as controversial enough to procure any heated condemnation or acclaim.

‘‘Sweat’’ itself received no major critical attention until Hurston’s revival by black feminist writers over fifteen years after her death. All of her writing was very highly regarded during the Harlem Renaissance, and she was thought to be one of the most prodigious writers in her generation, but Hurston rapidly lost her fame and even the ability to publish her works. By the end of her life, she was almost completely ignored by the literary community, in part because...

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