Study Guide

Zora Neale Hurston Writing Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Writing Their Eyes Were Watching God

By 1934, Hurston's freelance career was flourishing, with essays and short stories appearing frequently in journals. With the help of a grant from the Rosenwald Foundation she began studying for a doctorate at Columbia University (she never finished it). She also published her first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine. The novel was based loosely on the lives of her parents, John and Lucy Potts Hurston. She followed that up a year later with Mules and Men, an acclaimed collection of black folklore compiled during her research expeditions in the Caribbean. The book highlighted both the fruits of Hurston's research and the unorthodox methods she used to obtain them. "Lying was for her both an art form and a methodology," a reviewer wrote years later. "When her shiny, late-model car made her suspect among the poor country folk she hoped to interview, she pretended to be a bootlegger on the lam in order to further her fieldwork—or so Hurston claims in 'Mules and Men.'"blank">Their Eyes Were Watching God and the collapse of her doomed, months-long marriage to Albert Price in 1939, the next few years of Hurston's life proved to be professionally rewarding. She published Tell My Horse, another well-received volume of black folklore collected on her research trips. In 1939 she went to work for the Federal Writers' Project in Florida, collecting important cultural notes about the black communities in Eatonville and other places. She published her novel Moses, Man of the Mountain, as well as an acclaimed memoir of growing up in Eatonville called Dust Tracks on a Road. In 1947 she moved to Honduras to research the black experience there, and wrote and published a novel entitled Seraph on the Swanee.

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