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This thesis is composed of two parts and makes use of two literary genres: the traditional essay, and a literary form called fictocriticism developed by anthropologist Michael Taussig. Both are integrated in an exploration of the rural Black southern aesthetic—from a solely critical approach with the essay Zora Neale Hurston: Re-assessing the Black Southern Identity, to the analytical fiction advanced in Stone Mill Creek. Re-assessing the Black Southern Identity traces the origin and history of the aesthetic, arguing a case for its most celebrated advocate—novelist, anthropologist and ethnographer Zora Neale Hurston. She almost single-handedly preserved many of the southern folk idioms we treasure today; her novels and folklore collections are glowing examples of the rich, cultural legacy of the rural south. She would transcend the "cultural sanitizing" imposed by the Harlem Renaissance aristocracy by remaining true to her aesthetic inclination, but would die an "unremarked and controversial" figure in 1960. Due to a move from the "cultural correctness" of the 1920s and 30s to a sort of literary and cultural revival that defined the 60s and 70s, Hurston may have become one of the movement's largest benefactors. Both her works and clandestine-like lifestyle has become the source of intense scholarly review and has led to her newly appointed canonical status. The fictocritical work Stone Mill Creek combines four years of ethnographic study, historical accounts, local folklore traditions and cultural commentary in nonlinear narratives. The chapters trace the folk-lives of a "once upon a time" group of Black farmers who settled in the Florida panhandle around the 1820s and allows for more than a theoretical glance at the vernaculars, themes, ideals and symbols representative of those Hurston called "farthest down." The semi-fictive language in Stone Mill Creek is a living, breathing cultural artifact and however reductive, is another distinct, self-defined and documented voice of the Black southern identity.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of English in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Jerrilyn McGregory, Professor Directing Thesis; Christopher Shinn, Committee Member; Virgil Suaréz, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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