Daughters of Hurston: Creolization as Performance from the Caribbean to the Sea Islands Restricted; Files Only

Morris Johnson, Nicole M. (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/3484zg91x?locale=en


From Alice Dunbar Nelson’s late 19th-century poetry to Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade (2016), Black women artists have had an enduring creative attraction to Afro-creole spaces. “Daughters of Hurston” examines the work of four 20th-century authors to probe the relationship between Black artists and Afro-creole culture. Engaging the fiction and non-fiction writing of Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Dunham, Ntozake Shange, and Maryse Condé, this project tracks the reciprocal relationship between cultural plurality and each woman’s creativity. Using performance and creolization theories, I examine each author’s personal and fictional representations of performances that occur in settings including New Orleans, Haiti, the Sea Islands, Martinique, and San Francisco. These theoretical lenses also assist with an assessment of each artist’s autobiographical and fictional portrayals of creolizing performances, including formal New Orleans and Haitian Vodou, Gullah/Geechee seekin’ rituals and everyday actions such as breastfeeding. While often overshadowed by considerations of race, women's contributions to creolization are a focal point of this project. I find that in the beginning of the twentieth-century, these women and their fictional protagonists are drawn to formal ritual performance as a means of rebellion, whereas in the latter half of the century, the focus turns to the role that the female body plays in more subtle, quotidian performances.   Drawing on the fields of Africana and postcolonial studies, African-American and Caribbean literary studies, women and gender studies, and religious studies, my project joins an ongoing interdisciplinary conversation about Black freedom. This dissertation reveals the interdependent relationship between Afro-creole culture and four Black women artists, and highlights the liberatory maps that they embed in their art.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Introduction 1


Chapter One 35

“you got tuh go there tuh know there”: The Disembodied Embodiment of Hurston and Dunham


Chapter Two 76

Limbo Time: Janie’s Seekin Journey in Their Eyes Were Watching God


Chapter Three 125

For Geechee Girls: Embodied Creolization in Shange’s Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo


Chapter Four 160

Liquid Echoes: the Breast and Voice Transmission in Maryse Condé's Windward Heights




Bibliography 194


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