Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 442
Read the rest of the material in Fire!! How do Hurston’s pieces compare with those of her colleagues? Are they operating under the same artistic agenda? Describe the agenda(s) that you observe. Do you find the content radical? If you were a leader of the New Negro movement, how would you evaluate or critique the work of these authors?
Consider some of the reasons for Hurston’s declining popularity and alienation from the literary community. For example, read her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road and review the history of race relations between 1920 and 1960. Discuss why some of her political views might have been unpopular, and explain why you think she came to these conclusions. What led to Hurston’s unpopularity besides her stance on certain political issues? Describe the elements of ‘‘Sweat’’ that might have alienated her readership, and explain how the characteristics that later made her unpopular are noticeable, or missing, in the story.
Listen to some of the music from the Harlem Renaissance, such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and especially the lyrics of singers such as Bessie Smith. What do the rhythms of jazz and blues have in common with the writings of Hurston and her colleagues? Compare the character, style, and sexuality of Bessie Smith’s songs with Delia Jones and ‘‘Sweat,’’ particularly in terms of empowerment and female autonomy. How is Hurston’s treatment of black folk culture different from the cultural style preserved in the music? How do they employ similar techniques?
Hurston underwent a major revival in the 1970s, particularly by the writer Alice Walker. How, and on what grounds, did writers of this period identify with Hurston? Discuss why one might consider Hurston a feminist. Read Walker’s The Color Purple and compare its themes to those of ‘‘Sweat.’’ How have understandings and theories of race and gender changed since Hurston’s lifetime? Do you think Hurston’s works will continue to be popular in the future? Why or why not?
Read several historical accounts of the Harlem Renaissance, both from the primary sources and from contemporary analysts. How does ‘‘Sweat’’ fit in with the politics and artistic theories of Hurston’s contemporaries? How do her writings reflect the sentiment of the time? Make a case for why she can, or cannot, be fairly called a ‘‘New Negro.’’ How does she think of and refer to herself in relation to this term? What impact do you think her writings had on the Renaissance community, and how do you think her career might have differed had she lived during a different moment in black history, such as after the Civil Rights movement?
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