“Thinking in heirogliphics”

Anna Lillios

in Crossing the Creek

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780813038094
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813041551 | DOI:
“Thinking in heirogliphics”

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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This chapter delves into the source of Hurston's and Rawlings' creativity and how it inspired them to write their greatest works, Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and Rawlings' The Yearling. It looks at the common element in their works: connection to their communities. Both authors strongly associated with their Florida communities of Eatonville and Cross Creek and found their voices early in their careers by tapping into the rich oral traditions that they discovered in these cultures. When Rawlings sent a story based on Cross Creek to Maxwell Perkins, her Scribners editor, he highly praised her portrayal of the Florida crackers: “One great quality in what you have written is that you enable the reader to see them from a new point of view, by which he can sympathize with them.” Perkins notices the perfect “affinity between people and places” that Rawlings experiences at Cross Creek and urges her to apply it to The Yearling. Hurston became a writer once she reconnected with her community. When she first attempted to collect folklore under the direction of Franz Boas, her Barnard anthropology professor, she failed, because she spoke “Barnardese” to the residents. It was not until Rawlings lived in a lumber camp in Polk County, Florida, that she succeeded in capturing the language of the juke joints and of people specifying and playing “the dozens.” When Hurston sat down to write her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, a main theme was the difficulty of finding a voice.

Keywords: Cracker; Florida; Boas; Perkins; Scribners; Eatonville; Cross Creek; The Yearling

Chapter.  24554 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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