Crossing the Threshold: Zora Neale Hurston, Racial Performance, and Seraph on the Suwanee
Abstract

Abstract:

This essay explores Zora Neale Hurston’s evolving discourse on interracial cultural exchanges in her various representations of a black female child artist. It examines her treatment of race, performance, and audience in order to situate her critically neglected novel Seraph on the Suwanee within her writing trajectory. Whereas Hurston’s earlier works maintain the black female performer’s artistic integrity despite her racial and sexual vulnerability, her final novel Seraph on the Suwanee punctuates her discourse on racial performance by deconstructing white male mastery’s and pedestal white femininity’s dependence on black folk bodies. Reading across Hurston’s fiction and autobiographical writing not only enables a more comprehensive understanding of her efforts to promote black folk culture during the New Negro Renaissance, but it also acknowledges her postwar attempts to rewrite and reconcile the problematic of the black female artist.