Write formal academic research essay on gender or sexuality
Using one of the essay topics provided, write a formal academic research essay in which you address the topic of gender/sexuality/women’s writing in any two of the set texts on this units. You should refer to relevant secondary critical/theoretical as well as to the set texts. You should not, however, write again on the text you chose for Assessment #2, the close reading. Your essay should use MLA referencing and include a bibliography/works cited. You must annotate 5 key works you have consulted, stating how and why they have been useful for your topic. Your annotations should be no more than 100 words for each entry.
Learning objectives Assessed:
• the ability to assess and interpret the relationship between literary texts and their social and political contexts
• an informed critical perspective on the question of gender and literary production
• an informed critical perspective on the question of gender and literary value
• an informed understanding of some key approaches to the study of women’s writing
• solid advanced undergraduate-level skills in the reading and interpretation of literary texts
• correctly formatted bibliography (MLA-preferred style) and concise annotations for 5 works consulted
How have race and sexual identity been addressed in any 2 of the set texts?
You will need to identify one/both of these themes in the two texts and then analyse HOW the writers have addressed these themes.
You will need to do some close reading to give examples of the writers’ approaches and literary strategies.
The notion of…
Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. Church Culture as a Strategy of Action in the Black Community. American Sociological Review. Vol. 63, No. 6 (Dec., 1998), pp. 767-784.
The two novels, Their eyes were watching God and Manhattan Dreaming, both features a protagonist who strives to find their own identity and independence in relation to their relationship with men. This essay argues that both writers have addressed the issue of race in their words in order to bring the voice of a minority group to mainstream literature.
Context: race as a theme
According to Heiss, Non-Aboriginal writers should not attempt to write about Aboriginal issues and this argument stems from the history of the inaccurate and negative representation of Aborigines in literature (Heiss, Writing about indigenous Australia–some issues to consider and protocols to follow: a discussion paper). Hurston and Heiss both as a writer represented their own race and bring the voice of their minority group to the public sphere. In the two novels, both writers use race as a theme to help readers from a different background to understand African American culture and Australia Indigenous culture better. As an anthropologist, Hurston uses the novel as a form of documentation of African American folklore culture from the perspective of an African American woman (Carby, 30-31XXXX). This results in the rich and dynamic African artistic conception throughout the novel. In Their eyes were watching God, Hurston incorporates much African American practices with the story plot. In the scene where Mrs. Bogle sang at the lighting ceremony (Hurston 56), we can see the dynamic description of the African American folklore culture, where everyone was involved in the ceremony and they sang together as a group. To Hurston, this custom is an art that should be retain and preserve (Johnson, 159). In The Companion to Australian Literature Since 1990, Birns quoted the words of the late Bundjalung writer, Ruby Langford Ginibi, “we were reclaiming our history, our heritage, and our identity, and that’s very important to our cause” (Nicholas Birns, Rebecca McNeer 42). Aboriginal writers who writes about their race are proud of their identity and aims to writing to reclaim their identity in the white world. Heiss argues that this way of writing could help non-Aboriginal readers to understand Aboriginal Australia better, and “in turns aids race relations between Black and white Australians” (Heiss, Black Words: Writers on Identity 1).
Genre and readership
In the novel, Hurston uses a literary novel that contains a protagonist looking the world through an African American perspective. She incorporates her observation of the African American culture into a novel. She has showed that a black woman could write a literary novel with beautiful language. It was seen as a high art in the literary cannon. Heiss on the other hand sees that chick lit is popular and more accessible to the public sphere, she chooses to use chick lit as a strategy to convey her ideas of the racial politics.
The naming of characters as an identification of race:
Our name was the primary identity of one’s own, it was a label to differentiate us with different individuals. Naming was of much importance in the African culture, it is often related to their racial identity. Their names were often named after someone who was respected, they use their names as to gain respect and recognition with their own ethnic groups. In the Afro-American culture, it was believed that a name was linked to the exercise of power (Bloom, 57). In the earliest period of Africans arriving America, slaves were forced to abandon their names and adopt a more American name which was given by their masters. Bloom (57) quote Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy that “naming conveyed a power over things”. In The eyes were watching God, Hurston addressed the African culture through the naming of the characters in the story. We can see from different characters names, Hurston brought out the characteristic of different characters with the naming culture.
Both of the writers bring out the African-American and the Australian Indigenous culture through the illustration of the protagonists.
Nanny, Janie’s grandmother, was an African slave being sold to America. As an African woman, Nanny did not take either an African name nor an American name, and was not given a name by her master either. While naming in African culture was seemed as an important practice, Nanny did not had a proper name throughout the story, but she remained as ‘Nanny’ throughout the book. Even Janie, the closest relative to her, calls her Nanny as well “cause days what everybody on the place called her” (20). The word nanny was associated with babysitter and caretaker, it was used as a name of a profession but never a person’s name. It seems like a name that purely describe Nanny’s job, as she was always the caretaker of Janie, raising Janie with her own hands. In the story, Nanny is living at the bottom of the social hierarchy. She never explained the origin of her name. The avoidance of the origin of her name hint the idea that Nanny herself would not like to talk about her name as well. Hurston showed us the type of African women who could not escape from the slavery system, they were being suppressed, they were being treated as mules, they were never seen as a human being. All Nanny got was a name identifies her profession, but not a name that identifies she herself as a human. Although Nanny would like the world to know how good Black women were, she did not have the chance. She could not even protect her own name, her African identity,
In contrast to Nanny’s, Hurston showed another type of African women through Janie. Although Janie’s life was tough, she was determined to fight for a better life for herself. When Janie was young, she did not realise the difference race of her and her friends. She never felt different from the others until the photo shoot of her and other children. ‘Ah’m coloured!’ (11), was the first time she realised she was different. She was named “Alphabet” while she was young, she never has a proper name. A name, as an identifier, a symbol to identify oneself, Janie allowed people call her whatever they want. Until she was older, she was called “Janie”, a name that was much of American culture. She struggles to find her own identity and her own way of living. Hurston raced concerns of these types of African women, who was struggling to find their own identity, trying to understand their life in a culture that does not belong to themselves.
In Manhattan Dreaming, Heiss does not explicitly bring out the character’s identity through their birth name, but through nicknames. Through the names that the aboriginals identified themselves, Heiss constantly remind us that the indigenous characters were proud of their own culture and they embraced it.
“Tidda”, the name that Libby always calls Lauren, is an Northen Koori word. To Heiss, the word “Tidda” has a lot of meaning, as she believed that “Language moves and was transmitted in different ways” (Heiss, Up close: Sisters bound by books 32). “Tiddas” could mean best friends, sisters, aunts, daughters and even more. The word “Tidda” shows that it could not be translated into a proper word in English, it was carrying the Aboriginal culture in itself which almost untranslatable in another culture. As other countries did not exist that culture, they did not have the vocabulary that could explain the particular culture, thus these untranslatable words brought the unique culture of the nation.
Use of language:
The use of language in both texts showed the writer’s incentive of bringing out a unique racial identity. Writers addressed race through using the unique language of their own culture.
In Their eyes were watching God, Hurston shows the identity of the characters through her use of language, especially the utilization of the rural Southern black dialect. The rural Southern black dialect was the essence element in the African-American culture, and it as well acted as Hurston’s main tool to address race throughout the book. In the novel, standard English were only used as introducing and narrating the story. Hurston utilized both high literary narration and dialect languages, presenting a cultural discourse in Janie’s world. This cultural discourse created a better understanding for the readers to understand the world Janie was in. Through the use of the dialect, we could also see that Hurston is creating a strong sense of racial identity. These distinctive dialects, with their unique grammar, vocabulary and tone altogether formed a unique identity to these African women. These Southern black dialects were an important history in the African-American culture, and they are unique and distinctive to the African-American culture.
On the other hand, the record of the funeral of the yellow mule(75) also plays an important role, the scene presented a unique culture of the Africans. Preaching is an important culture of the Africans, which is originated in the church. Preaching usually contains strong and passionate emotions with the repartee of the priest and the crowd. Different from the white culture, in African culture, preaching is a dynamic communication, it involves everyone participating the event. The black church practices involved holding hands in prayers, call-and-response interaction, singing and clapping (770), they are the most important elements of the African-American church culture. These culture and practices ‘enact the collective goals expressed in the content of social action (770)’ In the novel, Hurston presented us a part of the African-American church culture in the funeral of the mule. The call-and-response interaction, the passionate responding towards the mule between the Parson and the crowd shows the unique racial identity of the crowd.
In Manhattan Dreaming, the use of slangs and is very common throughout the book. The novel included the mixture Australian slang, Aboriginal terms and the presentation of the Australian accent shows the unique race of the protagonist. Although we may say Lauren is an Aborigine, her growing up with Australians thus created a unique identity. Heiss constantly addresses the cultural difference by the different of slangs that the characters were using. After Lauren arrived New York, Heiss shows us the difference of slangs such as “deadly” in Australia and “amazing” in the US(??). The use of vernacular language delivered the strong sense of racial difference between the protagonist and the other characters. Moreover, Heiss also presented the racial difference through presenting two different accents of English. Heiss in the book uses the words “Brisbayne” and “Melbawne”(157) to show the unique accent of the protagonist, and the use of language once again reaffirmed the race of Lauren.