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Since
the emergence of
Harlem Renaissance, black folklore in American literature has
been widely debated due
to its previous
mis/under-represented
standards. Mules and
Men is a unique
record of African American folk culture where Zora
Neale Hurston, as
a prominent Harlem Renaissance writer,
intersperses various cultural forms (i.e. folktales, folk songs, and
hoodoo rituals) with ethnographic narrative in
a spectacular
way that
dramatizes
and orchestrates
her passion to
(re)create a collective
identity of the black minority.
Hurston’s representation of black
folk culture can be
best understood in
light of Bhabha’s notion of culture as
she
redefines
culture as both ‘transnational’ and ‘translational’.
In addition to providing close reading of Mules and Men that
erode the whitewashed ‘primitivist’ folklore within the
discourses of transnational politics, this paper explores the
development of, and relationship between, “big ole lies” and
African American (hi)stories. As a black woman, writing in, and about
Southern America, Hurston carefully arranges her folk tales and
meticulously depicts the specific regions in which they are narrated
to reveal ‘authentic’ evidence of complex racial relations in Jim
Crow South. Her collection of African American folktales, therefore,
functions as a form of protest. I argue that, by revising and
reformulating African American orature in Mules and Men,
Hurston not only unveils (in)visible racial inequalities, but also
overturns traditional ethnographic narrative techniques. While I am
primarily interested in interpreting the “lies,” I also intend to
explore her literary strategies through which she merges the “double
self into a better and truer self” (Du Bois 3). Examining how
Hurston ‘adapts’ the “big ole lies” that transgress the
power/knowledge dichotomy through Bhabha-inspired lens, I would like
to flesh out how these stories subvert normativity through mimicry
and work as language of dissent.

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