So I had a very productive talk today with a younger faculty member here at the University of Alabama. She really helped me put into perspective this whole dissertation topic. Fortunately, this professor does think it’s possible to present Zane in the same frame as Hurston and Walker, as far as the politics of respectability goes. However, what was so brilliant about our conversation is that she also helped me see that I could go further, even beyond Hurston and Walker. And, actually it may be more reasonable to do so since much scholarship has been vested in those two authors —and I will have to justify my angle at every turn, as well as be hard-pressed to find a new angle to their works.
This professor gave me an impressive array of novels and names to consult (hope I can read my scattered, double lined writing as the months progress:)! She suggested I narrow down my time frame from just 20th C. novelists/novels— if I am going to look at Zane’s navigation of the politics of respectability, that can very well be done in a post 1970s, post-Civil Rights Movement sense. Black women literature is so vast and so wide that the possibilities are endless.
I now know that I should classify Zane as “Street Lit” or “Urban Lit” to find more hits in databases. I also need to read the novels with an idea in mind of what challenges to the politics of respectability do I want to present, discuss, or amplify. She also suggested I become very clear as to whether I am doing heterosexual or homosexual politics of respectability–that will become clear based on the lit I chose. I will have to ground Zane in a literary and cultural study by answering questions such as what happened in black women’s literature that made it possible for a “Zane”; and what happened in our mainstream culture that made the environment susceptible to a “Zane”. I must get an understanding of how do we understand the particular text in terms of politics of respectabilty.
She assured me that the field is changing in such a way that this work is acceptable. Authors are talking about black women and sexuality more, so it shouldn’t hurt my post-dissertation job search.
I feel really good with this topic now, better than I ever have! First stop on the reading list: Candace Jenkins, “Private Lives, Proper Relations” and Kimberly Nichele Brown, “Writing the Black Revolutionary Diva”.