Beginning with a comparison of Virginia Woolf ’s vision of passing a “fine negress” in “A Room of One’s Own” (1929) to Zora Neale Hurston’s refusal to allow white women to pass her without some roughhousing in her 1928 essay, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” this essay grapples with Hurston’s eruptive representations of her relationships with white women in her controversial 1942 memoir, Dust Tracks on a Road. Hurston devotes an inordinate amount of room in this book to describing her repeated—and repeatedly strange—encounters with white women who largely served as her employers and patrons. By depicting her encounters with these women as scenes of transcendence, odd staring, and rough contact, Hurston poses eruptive play as a risk all bodies, even those of black women who have historically been denied corporeal sovereignty, must consider taking. Hurston turns the strange mechanics of these hierarchical relationships into an occasion for imagining how to be intimate with others without rendering difference invisible.
Hard Romping: Zora Neale Hurston, White Women, and the Right to Play
Adrienne Brown is assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is coeditor with Valerie Smith of Race and Real Estate (2015) and author of The Black Skyscraper: Architecture and the Perception of Race (2017).
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Adrienne Brown; Hard Romping: Zora Neale Hurston, White Women, and the Right to Play. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 September 2018; 64 (3): 295–316. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-7142061
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