The Wh-eye of the Storm: How Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, and Arif Anwar Fictionalize Extreme Weather in Their Works
Researcher ORCID Identifier
Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
2023 Elena Vedovello
In this thesis, I used Robin Wall Kimmerer’s and James D. Rice’s ideas of “ecological imagination” to analyze three twentieth and twenty-first century works that feature historical extreme weather events. American Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston introduces her fictional characters to the historical force of the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane in her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God; British Modernist writer Virginia Woolf writes about the 1609 Great Frost in Orlando; and Bangladeshi author Arif Anwar sets his novel The Storm during and around the infamous Bhola Cyclone of 1970.
Although these authors and their novels stem from various literary traditions and tackle events that span almost five hundred years, the choice of including a historical weather event in their works brings them together. In all three novels, the authors not only explore the connections between the extreme weather events they include in their plots and historical forces that shape the places and communities affected by them, but also use these weather events as symbols of these same forces. Hurston’s hurricane, thus, becomes imbued with both the trauma of colonial slavery for Black communities in Florida and the possibility of spiritual liberation through West African and Haitian spirituality. The combined forces of Woolf’s frost and thaw ask her protagonist, Orlando, to melt binary thinking as a cultural era flows into another, but ultimately fail to unfreeze binaries as English ecological imagination remains frozen within them. Finally, Anwar centers his novel around a cyclone that was historically tied to the political consequences of centuries of history in the Bay of Bengal, making the extreme weather a symbol of that same geopolitical history.
Their different literary traditions and relations to the extreme weather event were instructive, for this senior thesis explored how authors’ ecological imaginations inform the depiction of hurricanes, frosts, and cyclones across continents and cultures. Each of the three chapters focused on one of the novels, with the first one centered on Their Eyes Were Watching God, the second one on Orlando, and the third one on The Storm.
Vedovello, Elena, "The Wh-eye of the Storm: How Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, and Arif Anwar Fictionalize Extreme Weather in Their Works" (2023). Pomona Senior Theses. 275.
Environmental Studies Commons, Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America Commons, Literature in English, British Isles Commons, Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority Commons