Cover image for Hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick : race and gender in the work of Zora Neale Hurston
Hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick : race and gender in the work of Zora Neale Hurston
Meisenhelder, Susan Edwards, 1951-
First paperbound printing.
Publication Information:
Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, 2001.

Physical Description:
258 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: c1999.
"Fractious" mules and covert resistance in Mules and men -- "Natural men" and "pagan poesy" in Jonah's gourd vine -- "Mink skin or coon hide": the Janus-faced narrative of Their eyes were watching God -- The ways of white folks in Seraph on the Suwanee -- "Crossing over" and "heading back": Black cultural freedom in Moses, man of the mountain -- "With a harp and a sword in my hand": Black female identity in Dust tracks on a road -- The "trials" of Black women in the 1950s: Ruby McCollum and Laura Lee Kimble.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3515.U789 Z785 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Zora Neale Hurston is a controversial figure, equally praised and criticized for her representation of African-Americans; while some critics emphasize her ebullience and celebration of Black culture, others call her fiction stereotypical and essentialist. Observing the workings of the recurrent humor in her works helps explode this critical binary opposition. Specifically, the carnivalesque and the heteroglossia often subvert essentialist notions of (Black) identity.

Jonah's Gourd Vine's protagonist, the preacher-womanizer John Pearson, can be seen as an African rather than an African-American trickster figure, i.e. as a mobile character whose liminality helps him fight essentialist definitions imposed on him by both the white establishment and his own community. Janie's romantic search for self-fulfillment in Their Eyes Were Watching God is undermined by the humor and the carnival, which emphasize her shifting and multiply defined identity. Finally, the African-Americanized story of Moses and the Hebrews shows the conflicts involved in their search for a unified national and cultural identity. In these three novels, Hurston appears as a subversive presence whose manipulation of humor underscores a complex political vision.

Author Notes

Susan Edwards Meisenhelder is Professor of English at California State University-San Bernandino

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Abbreviationsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1. "Fractious" Mules and Covert Resistance in Mules and Menp. 14
2. "Natural Men" and "Pagan Poesy" in Jonah's Gourd Vinep. 36
3. "Mink Skin or Coon Hide": The Janus-faced Narrative of Their Eyes Were Watching Godp. 62
4. The Ways of White Folks in Seraph on the Suwaneep. 92
5. "Crossing Over" and "Heading Back": Black Cultural Freedom in Moses, Man of the Mountainp. 116
6. "With a Harp and a Sword in My Hand": Black Female Identity in Dust Tracks on a Roadp. 143
7. The "Trials" of Black Women in the 1950s: Ruby McCollum and Laura Lee Kimblep. 175
Conclusionp. 193
Notesp. 199
Works Citedp. 233
Indexp. 253