A new historicist intervention to literary analysis: Problematizing scientific standards in the production of knowledge and considering processes of interpretation in “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” by locating author, text, and reader.
Roijen, T.M. van
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In this thesis I perform a close reading informed by new historicist theory and intersectionality on Zora Neale Hurston’s 1928 text “How It Feels To Be Colored Me.” Prior to the Dutch translation of the classic essay a conversation between Simone Atangana Bekono and Kristina Kay Robinson, two authors, is incorporated. A remark by Bekono made me wonder about how well the text had aged and the influence of history accompanied by specific changes to language and culture. Wanting to research the text, I looked into different literary research methods and theories. Shifting to an academic format I detected the privileged position of textual analysis in relation to context-oriented approaches and the difficulty of working within these standards. Feminist debates on epistemology have both questioned and countered conservative standards in academia by forwarding issues of objectivity and responsibility. Because of the essay’s personal and specific nature, these debates are relevant, and context is needed to understand the text. Through theorizing about problems with the current standards of the production of knowledge and the influence of time-specific events and location, I chose an intersectional and historically informed contextualization of the text. This means that I argue for a located text, author, and researcher to approach the truly complex nature of all parties involved. Thinking about timely influences on narratives, I came to the following research question for this thesis: to what extent does a historical and contextual reading of “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” aid and complexify a contemporary interpretation of the classic text? In both my theoretical framework and the research analysis itself I aim to answer the following sub questions: How does an intersectional historical contextualization aid literary analysis? And how is historically situating a literary text, author, and reader relevant for understanding the text? The research is interdisciplinary and takes place within the field of Gender and Postcolonial Studies and Literary Studies. By performing my research I give an example of how a close reading informed by new historicist theory and intersectionality provide new insights in the text, complementing my argument. In short, to problematize conservative standards in the production of knowledge I argue for complexifying literary research and readings of texts.