Hum Update: Week 11

The End of the Semester is Nigh

Week 11 is finished and first years are starting to count down the remaining lectures. For Monday, April 15 and Wednesday, April 17, students read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Hurston (1891–1960) was a prominent writer of the Harlem Renaissance who explored themes of race, gender, politics, and class. She also studied at Howard University and Barnard College, receiving a degree in anthropology. Throughout her life, she continued to do anthropological research and work that influenced her writing. Her most well-known work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937, follows the character Janie Crawford’s development from a voiceless young girl into a mature and self reliant woman. The novel is told through extended flashbacks as Janie tells her life story to her friend Pheoby, and is split in three sections connected to her three marriages. Throughout the novel, Hurston explores gender roles, power dynamics, religion, and race.

On Monday, April 15, Professor of English Gail Sherman lectured on Their Eyes Were Watching God. Sherman lectured on how Hurston successfully blends modernist style and chiasma with the black literary tradition and feminist writing. Students had only read the first fifteen chapters for Monday, so many students were upset when Sherman spoiled the ending of the novel. Sherman argued that form is more important than content when discussing Hurston’s novel. However, many students were still disappointed that the surprise of the ending was ruined. There was no lecture on Wednesday.

On Friday, April 19, Associate Professor of Music Mark Burford and Associate Professor of Russian Marat Grinberg lectured on Paul Robeson. Robeson (1898–1976) was a singer, performer, and socialist political activist. He performed in productions of Shakespeare’s Othello, Kern and Hammerstein’s Show Boat, and multiple films. Burford and Grinberg’s joint lecture was highly praised by students. First year Paul Molamphy said, “It was the best double lecture we had all year. They split the time well and they both had interesting things to say that built on each other’s ideas.”

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