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Reading Testimony, Witnessing TraumaConfronting Race, Gender, and Violence in American Literature$
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Eden Wales Freedman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781496827333

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2020

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496827333.001.0001

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“You Got Tuh Go There Tuh Know There”

“You Got Tuh Go There Tuh Know There”

Dual- and Communal Witnessing in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Margaret Walker’s Jubilee

(p.115) Chapter 3 “You Got Tuh Go There Tuh Know There”
Reading Testimony, Witnessing Trauma

Eden Wales Freedman

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines how African American literature models and promotes dual-witnessing by underscoring the necessity of primary witnessing and impelling the reluctant reader to witness the narrative experience secondarily. To explore this doubly testimonial orientation, the chapter analyzes two key texts: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)—in which the life-narrative of the protagonist, Janie, is witnessed dually through conversation with her friend Pheoby—and Margaret Walker’s Jubilee (1966), which likewise embraces dual-witnessing and additionally moves the conversation from two speakers of the same community, race, and gender (e.g., Janie and Pheoby in Their Eyes Were Watching God) to many speakers who partake in an epic-scaled, multiethnic, multi-gendered, and multi-classed communal witnessing. In reading these novels together, the chapter considers how Their EyesWere Watching God witnesses primarily to Jubilee, which in turn witnesses the earlier work secondarily and intertextually.

Keywords:   community, intertextuality, Margaret Walker, reader response, Zora Neale Hurston

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