Expanding roles for Black women in literature: Zora Neale Hurston and Gloria Naylor

Jennifer Louise Hayes, Tennessee State University

Abstract

Zora Neale Hurston and Gloria Naylor challenge the limited constructions of Black women’s identities in their literature. Black feminist critic Bell Hooks highlights the Black matriarchy as the term given to the general misunderstanding and limited constructions of Black women’s identities. She highlights three manifestations of the Black matriarchy that limit Black women. They include the mammy, the Sapphire, and the Jezebel. Each of the three manifestations of the Black matriarchy restrict the constructions of Black women’s identities. Hurston and Naylor undermine these manifestations by examining there inability to encompass the fullness of Black women’s experiences. ^ Zora Neale Hurston and Gloria Naylor challenge the limited constructions of Black women’s identities by writing texts that address the restrictions placed on Black women. In Hurston’s short stories “Sweat” and “The Gilded Six Bits”, and Naylor’s novel The Women of Brewster Place, Hurston and Naylor challenge the restrictive space Black women can occupy by highlighting the realities of their experiences, while juxtaposing these realities with themes like religion and intimate relationships. These two themes underscore the difficulty Black women have maintaining relationships and adhering to a restrictive structure for spiritual beliefs. The difficulties stem from the tension Black women have with establishing their own identities, while simultaneously seeking to eliminate limited and distorted identities that do not represent them. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Black Studies|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Jennifer Louise Hayes, "Expanding roles for Black women in literature: Zora Neale Hurston and Gloria Naylor" (2010). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI1476483.
http://digitalscholarship.tnstate.edu/dissertations/AAI1476483

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