My Contribution

Write Up: my role in the project
My role was to discuss how archetypes convey folk tradition in Their Eyes Were
Watching God. I also set up the outline for the entire presentation and contributed to the
discussion of the topic and forming of a question. My first idea of Greek Mythology and
epics is evident in the final topic we agreed on, folk tradition. My section regarding
archetypes is also largely influenced by mythology and Homer’s Odyssey. I drafted our final
question, “How is Folk Tradition expressed in Hurston’s novel?” after we agreed on how we
wanted to approach the topic, our approach being four (one each) largely independent
subtopics relating back to the main idea of folk tradition. I created the Google Docs for our
presentation and brainstorming. I outlined the presentation in Google Docs once we’d
agreed on an order and then we each added our content in the sections I made for each of
us. Taylor is the one who converted it to PowerPoint and did the animations and generally
made it presentable.
The majority of the work I did however was on my own section about archetypes.
Archetypes are vital in the expression of folk tradition since, in many ways, folk tradition is a
collection of archetypes. My discussion of archetypes focused on nature, mythology, and
heroes and their journeys. The section on nature fit well with Taylor’s theme of imagery
since much of the imagery in Hurston’s novel is based around natural figures many of which
could be viewed as archetypes. Originally however, I started with mythical figures. I found
two of the essays we used in our final project, “The Isis-Osiris Myth in Zora Neale Hurstonʼs
Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Tina Barr of Rhodes College and “The Role of Myth in
Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Cyrena N. Pondrom of the University of
Wisconsin. The first one actually mentions multiple myths(104) and mythology in general (in
the context of Hurston), though only briefly(102), and then the rest of the essay focused on
the ancient Egyptian myth of Isis-Osiris. I also found the two quotes in the essay to use in
the presentation. The relationship of mythology and folklore is evident throughout Barr’s
essay from mention of oral tradition(106), a quote by Hemingway(105), and Hurston’s
research into myth and folklore(102).
The second essay, “The Role of Myth in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God”
by Cyrena N. Pondrom (published in 1986), is one of the first essays to pick up on the
significance of mythology in the novel and as such spends a fair amount of time expressing
surprise at the lack of such a discussion. Pondrom mentions many biblical and mythological
figures represented in the novel(183,184), and as would be expected with mythology, many
of them represent archetypal figures. The contribution to the group’s thesis or topic was my
greatest challenge, that is to say, relating all the mythology I researched to folk tradition
through archetypes.
Expanding the content of “archetypes” to a broader range than just mythology would
help my discussion actually contribute to the whole, hence the inclusion of the “nature”
section. Nature allowed me to segway in from Taylor’s discussion of imagery (he went right
before me). The nature related archetypes brought my discussion to the South whereas
with mythology the “folk tradition” wasn’t defined by any specific culture, rather it was
spread out among Egypt, Babylon, and Greece. Nature tied my discussion back to the
same folk tradition discussed in the other parts of the presentation.
I participated fully in the process of narrowing of a topic, forming a thesis, and
organizing the presentation, but the majority of my work went into my individual section. I
originally come up with one topic that we all agreed on, but lack of an existing discussion
led us to reassess that topic and broaden it to folk tradition. I chose the subcategory
“archetypes” and used the definition of archetypes to relate to folk tradition. The nature topic
connected to the rest of the group, and the sections on mythology and epics allowed me to
expand and contribute new material to the group discussion.