Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, English and Literary Arts

First Advisor

Tayana L. Hardin, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Billy Stratton

Third Advisor

Hava Gordon


Gesture, Hurston, Performativity, Their Eyes Were Watching God


In this thesis, I argue that in her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston demonstrates protagonist Janie Crawford's development through her use of gesture. As the narrative moves throughout Janie's life, she becomes progressively able to communicate her feelings and desires through the use of her body's movements. By depicting Janie's subjectivity as fundamentally embodied, Hurston indicates an awareness of the cultural oppression Janie suffers, linking her body to those of women in the past that suffered as slaves. She draws attention to Janie's body by relying on her gestures in order to emphasize the challenges Janie faces and ultimately transcends in her journey towards greater self-awareness and understanding. In addition to her novel, I also rely on Hurston's essay "Characteristics of Negro Expression" in order to show how she employs gesture as a mode of communication that can communicate as clearly as spoken language within Janie's community.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Madeline Elizabeth Celley


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

74 p.


Literature, African American Studies, Gender Studies