Abstract

Abstract:

This essay proposes that Zora Neale Hurston's playwriting, folkloric song collecting, choreography, and concert staging constitute an ongoing conversation, in which each genre of performance and recording is often literally a reiteration of the other. Unlike most folklorists of her time, Hurston used her ethnographic fieldwork as a dramatic performance space and her drama as a stage to revise and revisit that fieldwork. Hurston taught "the folk" their own folklore, staged those same songs in her vernacular revue The Great Day, and used ethnographic recordings to rehearse that same show. I call this performance practice Hurston's "collecting stage": the step in her ethnographic fieldwork in which she gathered her sources and then synthesized them in a performance in which she, too, participates. An exercise in dramatic mimicry (rooted in a fraught history of performances of Blackness), Hurston's collecting stage is an exceptional space for enacting the artistic exchange between Black folkloric dramaturgy and the drama of Black folklore. Focusing on Hurston's underaccessed field recordings and performances of The Great Day, this essay advances work about Hurston's unique position as both ethnographer and ethnographic subject, arguing that her folklore was, explicitly, its own stage for Black drama.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 881-908
Launched on MUSE
2020-12-22
Open Access
No
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