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English 298: African American Literature,
For this paper, discuss how your understanding of African American identity and culture
has evolved as a result of this class. Discuss how two of the assigned readings we have
discussed this semester have impacted your thinking on Black existence in the United
States. What specific effects have these readings had on how you think about the United
States and its relationship to racial constructs? Draw on your experiences, class
discussions, etc. in demonstrating the evolution in your thinking concerning the
connections between the US and African American identity. You will need to provide close
analysis of the assigned readings you choose to discuss in making these connections clear.
Your analysis must hinge on direct quotations and examples from the texts you decide to
analyze. Only use assigned course texts as your sources for this paper.
Paper guidelines:
Papers must use proper MLA citation style in formatting in-text parenthetical citations and works
cited page. See the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) site for help with
MLA: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/ (Links to an external site.) (Links to
an external site.). In addition to MLA, papers should be formatted as follows:
12-point font
Times New Roman
1-inch margins
MLA style in-text parenthetical citations throughout paper when quoting sources
MLA style works cited page at the end of the paper
Page numbers and your last name in the upper right-hand corner of every page
ENGL 298 Response Paper 1 Comments Key
This key is a collection of the comments I most frequently make when grading the first
response paper. It encompasses all the comments I would have made on each paper had I
written individual comments. In the instance that I have a comment on your submitted
response paper that does not appear in this key, I will note the comment on Canvas when
posting your grade. This key is a useful resource regardless of your grade on the
assignment. The expectation is that you will read through all the comments in order
to benefit from the ones that apply to your assignment grade, along with having the ones
that don’t apply reinforced for you. Let me know if you’d like to discuss which specific
comments apply to the determination of your grade.
Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure / phrasing
Work on your grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure/phrasing in order to improve
the overall clarity of your writing. Going to the writing lab or coming to see me with
drafts of your work will help with this.
Avoid informal language (colloquialisms), contractions (don’t, can’t, shouldn’t), and the
use of “I” or “me” (first person point-of-view) when writing academic papers in the
Humanities. The first person voice is typically found in academic writing for the Sciences
and Social Sciences, where authors are reporting data findings from laboratory and/or
field research they have conducted. The third person point-of-view (“he,” “she,” “they,”
or “it”) is the formal academic voice most commonly used in the Humanities.
Focusing on your editing process will help you to catch awkward/unclear phrasing in
your writing. Reading your writing aloud is a good method to use in order to catch issues
with phrasing that you would not catch by just reading.
MLA citation formatting
Quotation marks go before the parentheses and periods go after in parenthetical citations.
This is only not true in block quotations, where there are no quotation marks and the
parentheses go after the period.
Titles of things that are smaller parts of a larger whole – chapters, essays, articles, or
episodes – have quotation marks around them. Titles of things that are a larger whole
with smaller parts – books, journals, newspapers, magazines, or TV shows – are italicized
or underlined.
Block quotations need to be four lines or longer and do not include quotation marks,
except when quotation marks actually appear in the text you’re quoting.
The entire block quotation should have the same justification two “tab spaces” from the
left margin of the page, and should be double-spaced like the rest of your paper.
You do not need to include the author’s name in the parentheses of a parenthetical
citation if the sentence already makes it clear who is being cited.
There is no comma between the author’s name and the page number in MLA style
parenthetical citations.
Consult the Purdue OWL site discussed in class for proper MLA works cited page
formatting. The “A Work in an Anthology, Reference, or Collection” section under the
“MLA Works Cited Page: Books” tab details the proper formatting for our book.
In MLA works cited page entries, each line after the first is indented one “tab space”
from the left margin.
When citing multiple sources on your works cited page, list them alphabetically by the
authors’ last names.
Your introduction has to include a thesis statement that explicitly states how the works
you will analyze demonstrate the instability of race as a social construct. A clear thesis
statement is the fundamental building block of academic writing, so it is impossible to
write a good paper without it. Without a clear articulation of what your analysis hopes to
prove, the rest of your paper becomes just a bunch of floating ideas that don’t have a
Be detailed in providing a “roadmap” of the individual connections you will draw
between the texts throughout your paper in trying to prove your thesis. You don’t have to
fit them all into one sentence. Take however many sentences you need to briefly
highlight individual connections you will elaborate on throughout your body sections in
order to prove that the texts’ relationship demonstrates race’s instability as a social
Providing a “roadmap” of the individual points you will make in order to prove your
thesis is foundational to academic writing, so you cannot write an effective paper without
doing so. It is just as important as making sure you have a thesis statement.
Use authors’ full names when first introducing them, and then only their last name from
that point on. Only refer to an author by their first name if you know them personally.
Focus on making sure you provide a transition into the first body section of your paper.
Your transition can appear at the end of your introduction, or at the beginning of your
first body section.
Body sections
Each of your body sections must have a clearly stated claim or point that your analysis is
trying to prove. For this paper, your claim in each body section should clearly state how
an individual connection between the texts demonstrates the instability of race as a social
construct. If you just jump into giving quotations and analysis without first making it
clear what point you’re trying to make, your discussion reads like a random collection of
information instead of a literary analysis that has a purpose.
The analysis portion of your body sections should at some point include a direct
discussion of how the claim you’re making in a particular body section connects back to
your overall thesis for the paper. For this paper, you should discuss how the individual
connection you’ve highlighted between the texts connects back to your overall thesis.
You cannot write an adequate literary analysis by relying on general statements about the
text you’re analyzing without consistently providing direct quotations from it.
Not providing a clear thesis in your introduction causes the analysis you provide
throughout your paper to seem less coherent and authoritative because there is no clear
purpose driving your points. The reader has to be made aware of your overall goal for
your paper right from the beginning so she/he can evaluate the effectiveness of your
analysis. Not having a clear purpose to evaluate in your paper makes the reader view your
ideas as random and unsubstantiated.
Focus more on your transitions between sections of your paper in order to improve the
coherence of your analysis as you move from one idea to another. Not having good
transitions to connect your ideas as you move from section to section causes the
progression of your ideas to seem disjointed; therefore causing your overall paper’s
effectiveness to suffer.
Focus on breaking your paragraphs into smaller, more contained segments of
information. Long paragraphs tend to get incoherent because they lose a clear sense of
what their purpose is due to all of the information in them. Having shorter paragraphs
allows you to limit the information in each to focusing on making only one claim that
you’re trying to support through analysis. This makes the progression of your ideas more
coherent to your reader and easier to follow; thereby making the overall quality of your
ideas and analysis seem more credible and authoritative to your reader.
Your decision to structure your analysis by discussing each writer separately, instead of
integrating your examinations of how their ideas connect, makes it difficult for your
reader to follow the connections you draw. You force your reader to remember
everything you said about one author in order to follow the connections you’re making to
another author. It would be more effective to structure your analysis around each
connection you’re making between the writers. This would make it easier for your reader
to see how each writer connects to the other, thereby making your overall analysis seem
more authoritative and feasible to your reader.
Quotations always need to be accompanied by and contextualized with analysis.
Quotations do not count as their own analysis, so just giving a quotation does not mean
that you’ve made it’s point clear simply by having written it. This is why a quotation
should never end a paragraph, or conclude an idea in your paper. Quotations require
analysis, or they are just floating ideas in your paper.
Focus on improving how you incorporate quotations from your sources into the flow of
your writing. Your ideas and the ideas from your sources should not read like a list. They
should read like a coherent integration of related ideas. This is why quotations do not
stand alone as sentences and need to be incorporated into the flow of a larger sentence.
This helps make your ideas and your source’s ideas seem more like an integrated whole,
instead of a listing of disparate ideas. This would make your paper read more
Restating what a quotation says in different words does not qualify as analysis of the
quotation. You need to specifically explain how/why you see that particular quotation as
supporting the claim you’re making. The quotation’s effectiveness in proving your point
is not self-evident, so you have to make the connection for your reader in order for them
to understand your particular analysis.
Having a longer quotation does not diminish your responsibility to still provide analysis
of how that quotation demonstrates your claim. The quality of your quotation does not
strengthen with the longer it gets. What ultimately determines the quality of your
quotation is how well you articulate your analysis. Also, long quotations can disrupt the
coherence of your paper by forcing the reader to process large blocks of information,
removed from the normal flow of the paper, just to understand a single point you’re
Rely less on generalized statements about what the text says or means and provide more
direct engagement with quotations and examples from the text in order to demonstrate the
strength of your claims. This will make your paper read more like an authoritative
analysis, and less like speculation and summary.
Think of your conclusion as a reverse introduction in that it should include the same
information as your introduction but backwards. Where the introduction’s thesis
statement lets the reader know the purpose of the analysis to come, the conclusion’s
restating of the thesis let’s the reader know the purpose of the analysis just given
throughout the paper. Where the introduction’s roadmap introduces the individual
connections between texts that will be analyzed throughout the paper, the conclusion’s
remapping of the introduction’s roadmap serves to recap how the individual connections
that were just analyzed throughout the paper served to demonstrate your overall thesis.
Where the introduction includes a sentence that transitions to the paper’s first body
section, the conclusion includes a sentence that effectively closes the paper’s discussion.
Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations
Alice’s Adventures in
The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn
All Quiet on the
Western Front
As You Like It
The Ballad of the Sad
Billy Budd, Benito
Cereno, Bartleby the
Scrivener, and Other
Black Boy
The Bluest Eye
Cat on a Hot Tin
The Catcher in the
The Color Purple
Crime and
The Crucible
Darkness at Noon
Death of a Salesman
The Death of Artemio
The Divine Comedy
Don Quixote
Emerson’s Essays
Fahrenheit 451
The Grapes of Wrath
Great Expectations
The Great Gatsby
The Handmaid’s Tale
Heart of Darkness
I Know Why the
Caged Bird Sings
The Iliad
Jane Eyre
The Joy Luck Club
The Jungle
Long Day’s Journey
Into Night
Lord of the Flies
The Lord of the Rings
Love in the Time of
The Man Without
The Metamorphosis
Miss Lonelyhearts
The Odyssey
Oedipus Rex
The Old Man and the
On the Road
One Flew Over the
Cuckoo’s Nest
One Hundred Years of
The Pardoner’s Tale
Portnoy’s Complaint
A Portrait of the
Artist as a Young
Pride and Prejudice
The Red Badge of
The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner
The Rubáiyát of
Omar Khayyám
The Scarlet Letter
A Separate Peace
Silas Marner
Song of Solomon
The Stranger
A Streetcar Named
The Sun Also Rises
The Tale of Genji
A Tale of Two Cities
The Tempest
Their Eyes Were
Watching God
Things Fall Apart
To Kill a Mockingbird
Waiting for Godot
The Waste Land
White Noise
Wuthering Heights
Young Goodman
Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations
Zora Neale Hurston’s
Their Eyes Were Watching God
New Edition
Edited and with an introduction by
Harold Bloom
Sterling Professor of the Humanities
Yale University
Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations:
Their Eyes Were Watching God—New Edition
Copyright © 2008 Infobase Publishing
Introduction © 2008 by Harold Bloom
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilized in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For more information contact:
Bloom’s Literary Criticism
An imprint of Infobase Publishing
132 West 31st Street
New York NY 10001
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hurston, Zora Neale.
Zora Neale Hurston’s Their eyes were watching God / [edited with an introduction by]
Harold Bloom.— New ed.
p. cm. — (Bloom’s modern critical interpretations)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7910-9788-5
1. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their eyes were watching God. 2. African American women in
literature. I. Title: Their eyes were watching God. II. Bloom, Harold. III. Title.
PS3515.U789T639 2008
Bloom’s Literary Criticism books are available at special discounts when purchased in
bulk quantities for businesses, associations, institutions, or sales promotions. Please call
our Special Sales Department in New York at (212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755.
You can find Bloom’s Literary Criticism on the World Wide Web at
Contributing Editor: Amy Sickels
Cover designed by Takeshi Takahashi
Cover photo Kuzmin Pavel/Shutterstock.com
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Editor’s Note
Harold Bloom
Literacy and Hibernation
Robert B. Stepto
“I Love the Way Janie Crawford Left Her Husbands”:
Zora Neale Hurston’s Emergent Female Hero
Mary Helen Washington
The Politics of Fiction, Anthropology,
and the Folk: Zora Neale Hurston
Hazel V. Carby
Language, Speech, and Difference
in Their Eyes Were Watching God
Cynthia Bond
Naming and Power in Zora Neale
Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God
Sigrid King
Laughin’ Up a World: Their Eyes Were
Watching God and the (Wo)Man of Words
John Lowe
“Mink Skin or Coon Hide”: The Janus-faced
Narrative of Their Eyes Were Watching God
Susan Edwards Meisenhelder
“The porch couldn’t talk for looking”:
Voice and Vision in Their Eyes Were Watching God
Deborah Clarke
“The Hierarchy Itself ”: Hurston’s
Their Eyes Were Watching God
and the Sacrifice of Narrative Authority
Ryan Simmons
“Some Other Way to Try”: From Defiance to
Creative Submission in Their Eyes Were Watching God
Shawn E. Miller
Editor’s Note
My Introduction stresses the affinities of Zora Neale Hurston with the heroic
vitalism of Theodore Dreiser and D. H. Lawrence.
The distinguished scholar Robert B. Stepto connects Their Eyes Were
Watching God to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man by the themes of “ascent and
A more political reading is ventured by Hazel V. Carby, and in linguistic
terms by three essayists: Cynthia Bond, Sigrid King, and John Lowe.
Problems of narrative doubling and of the wavering border of the visual
and language are the concerns of Susan Edwards Meisenhelder and Deborah
Hurston’s evasion of narrative directness is studied by Ryan Simmons,
after which Shawn E. Miller concludes this volume by analyzing Janie’s
transition from her bad first marriage to tragic fulfillment in her second.
Extra-literary factors have entered into the process of even secular
canonization from Hellenistic Alexandria into the High Modernist Era of
Eliot and Pound, so that it need not much dismay us if contemporary work
by women and by minority writers becomes esteemed on grounds other than
aesthetic. When the High Modernist critic Hugh Kenner assures us of the
permanent eminence of the novelist and polemicist Wyndham Lewis, we can
be persuaded, unless of course we actually read books like Tarr and Hitler.
Reading Lewis is a rather painful experience, and makes me skeptical of
Kenner’s canonical assertions. In the matter of Zora Neale Hurston, I have
had a contrary experience, starting with skepticism when I first encountered
essays by her admirers, let alone by her idolators. Reading Their Eyes Were
Watching God dispels all skepticism. Moses: Man of the Mountain is an
impressive book in its mode and ambitions, but a mixed achievement, unable
to resolve problems of diction and of rhetorical stance. Essentially, Hurston is
the author of one superb and moving novel, unique not in its kind but in its
isolated excellence among other stories of the kind.
The wistful opening of Their Eyes Were Watching God pragmatically
affirms greater repression in women as opposed to men, by which I mean
“repression” only in Freud’s sense: unconscious yet purposeful forgetting:
Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember,
and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream
is the truth. Then they ac …
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