Gender – Voice – Vernacular

The Formation of Female Subjectivity in Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker


1. Edition, 1999
324 Pages

ISBN: 978-3-8253-0880-3
Product: Book
Edition: Softcover
Subject: Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Series: American Studies – A Monograph Series, Volume No.: 77
Available: 02.08.1999

Keywords: Walker, Alice, Morrison, Toni, Hurston, Zora Neale


Literary scholars and audiences alike have long since recognized the unique contribution of African American female authors to the language of American fiction. This study analyzes the ways in which revised notions of gender and ‘Black English Vernacular’ traditions such as ‘the Dozens’, testifying, or the blues form the crucible that generates such fresh figurative language and stylistic innovation. As the protagonists in Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’, Toni Morrison’s ‘Sula’ and Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’ move towards increasing autonomy and creative self-expression in different media, their progress transforms the narrative voice as well as their own.

Even where their ‘Bildung’ is complete, it is not the happy ending (which harbors its own ironies) but the dialogic vitality of the narrative language that stands as its most enduring legacy, engaging the reader in a form of “call-and response” which resembles the characters’ interaction. Where communal oral traditions and the protagonist`s aspirations cannot be reconciled, as in Sula’s case, her voice continues to haunt the text. Investigating the linguistic, prosodic, metaphorical, and rhetorical strategies employed to evoke the immediacy of the spoken word, ‘Gender – Voice – Vernacular’ finally suggests that the “free direct discourse” of ‘The Color Purple’ may be an original mode of representing speech, a new technique for recording language surviving in silence.