Quicksand by Nella Larsen Summary
Quicksand (1928) is the first novel to give a voice to the sexual desires of a black woman. Helga Crane, the book?s protagonist, is trapped in the conflict between an active and a passive sexual behaviour, between sexual fufilment and middle-class respectability. Conflicts of race and sex even a religious conversion cannot resolve. Passing, written a year later, is overtly about black people who ?pass? for white, but in a veiled way it also is the desire of one woman for another - a new and daring theme for the writing of the time. The eroticism and sexuality that Nella Larsen was only able to whisper has in recent times been spoken loud and clear by Gayl Jones, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange and many other black women writers who recognize Nella Larsen as a pioneer and inspiration.
The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen by Nella Larsen Summary
This volume brings together the complete fiction of the author of Passing and Quicksand, one of the most gifted writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Throughout her short but brilliant literary career, Nella Larsen wrote piercing dramas about the black middle class that featured sensitive, spirited heroines struggling to find a place where they belonged. Passing, Larsen’s best-known work, is a disturbing story about the unraveling lives of two childhood friends, one of whom turns her back on her past and marries a white bigot. Just as disquieting is the portrait in Quicksand of Helga Crane, half black and half white, who is unable to escape her loneliness no matter where and with whom she lives. Race and marriage offer few securities here or in the other stories in this compulsively readable collection, rich in psychological complexity and imbued with a sense of place that brings Harlem vibrantly to life.
Passing by Nella Larsen Summary
Restless Classics presents the ninetieth anniversary edition of an undersung gem of the Harlem Renaissance: Nella Larsen's Passing, a captivating and prescient exploration of identity, sexuality, self-invention, class, and race set amidst the pealing boisterousness of the Jazz Age. When childhood friends Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry cross paths at a whites-only restaurant, it’s been decades since they last met. Married to a bigoted white man who has no idea that she is African American, Clare has fully embraced her ability to “pass” as a white woman. Irene, also light-skinned and living in Harlem, is shocked by Clare’s rejection of her heritage, though she too passes when it suits her needs. This encounter sparks an intense relationship between the two women who, as acclaimed critic and novelist Darryl Pinckney writes in his insightful introduction, reflect Larsen’s own experience of being “between black and white, and culturally at home nowhere.” In a culture intent on setting boundaries, Clare and Irene refuse to adhere to expectations of gender, race, or class, culminating in a tragic clash of identities, as their relationship swings between emotional hostility and intense attraction. “Nella Larsen’s Passing is one of those American classics that I’ve always meant to get around to. A new edition is out today from Restless Books, with a handsome cover (and interior illustrations, all by Maggie Lily) and an introduction by the novelist and critic Darryl Pinckney. If I’m going to tackle a classic, I like to have a teacher to help me along the way…. It’s a remarkable book, and Maggie Lily’s dark illustrations end up feeling very appropriate.” —Rumaan Alam, The New York Times Books Newsletter Praise for Passing "Quicksand and Passing are novels I will never forget. They open up a whole world of experience and struggle that seemed to me, when I first read them years ago, absolutely absorbing, fascinating, and indispensable." —Alice Walker "Discovering Nella Larsen is like finding lost money with no name on it. One can enjoy it with delight and share it without guilt." —Maya Angelou “Nella Larsen didn’t just eschew tribes — she never had one to begin with…. Unsparing on the madness of racial classification but frank, and very beautiful, on the lure of racial belonging.” —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times “[Passing] is about changing definitions of concepts like race and gender, and the inextricable relationship between whiteness and blackness. It is a meditation on the uneasy dynamic between social obligation and personal freedom. It dramatizes the impossibility of self-invention in a society in which nuance and ambiguity are considered fatal threats to the social order.” —Emily Bernard, Electric Literature “I have read and re-read Passing more than a dozen times. Each time I think I can hear Larsen's own voice more clearly: asking, demanding really, that each of us abandon the labels we've been assigned and celebrate the story that we are.” —Heidi W. Durrow, NPR “Passing broke literary ground as the story of two racially and sexually ambiguous women written by another. Social boundaries can be permeated, but not without cost.” —Natalie Cate, The Guardian, 1000 novels everyone must read
Passing Novels in the Harlem Renaissance by Mar Gallego,María del Mar Gallego Durán Summary
This book offers an insightful study of the significance of passing novels for the literary and intellectual debate of the Harlem Renaissance. Author Mar Gallego effectively uncovers the presence of a subversive component in five of these novels (by James Weldon Johnson, George Schuyler, Nella Larsen, and Jessie Fauset), turning them into useful tools to explore the passing phenomenon in all its richness and complexity. Her compelling study intends to contribute to the ongoing revision of the parameters conventionally employed to analyze passing novels by drawing attention to a great variety of textual strategies such as double consciousness, parody, and multiple generic covers. Examining the hybrid nature of these texts, Gallego skillfully highlights their radical critique of the status quo and their celebration of a distinct African American identity. Well researched and stimulating to read, Passing Novels in the Harlem Renaissance is an impressive work of scholarship and interpretat
Perspectives of Black Popular Culture by Harry B. Shaw Summary
While blacks have made perhaps their most obvious and substantial contributions to Western popular culture through music and dance, they have developed a rich popular culture in a number of other areas, including the visual arts, mass media, health practices, recreation, and literature. Glimpsed through any medium, black popular culture is the DNA that runs throughout the various kinds of black—and American—artistic achievement and shared experience, helping to identify, explain, and retain Africanisms and the essential blackness that emanate from the everyday lives of black people.
The Nella Larsen Collection; Quicksand, Passing, Freedom, the Wrong Man, Sanctuary by Nella Larsen Summary
The Nella Larsen Collection is comprised of five Nella Larsen fiction including; Quicksand, Passing, Freedom, The Wrong Man, and Sanctuary. Quicksand, Larsen's first novel, tells the story of Helga Crane who is the lovely and refined daughter of a Danish mother and a West Indian black father who abandons Helga and her mother soon after Helga is born. Unable to feel comfortable with any of her white-skinned relatives, Helga travels America, visits Denmark searching for people she feels at home with. In Passing Clare and Irene are childhood friends who lose touch when Clare's father dies and she moves in with two white aunts. By hiding that Clare was part-black, they allowed her to 'pass' as a white woman and marry a white racist. Irene lives in Harlem, commits herself to racial uplift, and marries a black doctor. Passing centers on the meeting of these childhood friends later in life, and the unfolding of events as each woman is fascinated and seduced by the other's daring lifestyle. Freedom, The Wrong Man, and Sanctuary are three stories about love, loss, mistaken identity, and death. Nellallitea 'Nella' Larsen was an American novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. Though her literary output was scant, what she wrote earned her recognition by her contemporaries and by present-day critics.
Passing, Quicksand, and Other Stories by Nella Larsen Summary
Published in 1928, Nella Larsen's first novel "Quicksand" regards the story of Helga Crane, the lovely and refined mixed-race daughter of a Danish mother and a West Indian black father. The character is loosely based on Larsen's own experiences and deals with the character's struggle for racial and sexual identity, a theme common to Larsen's work. In Larsen's second novel, "Passing," published in 1929, the author revisits this struggle through the lives of two childhood friends, Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield, both of whom are of mixed African and European ancestry and are "passing" as whites. The novel picks up in the lives of the two as they later reunite in adulthood. An ambiguous relation develops between the two as they share a fascination for how each other's lives have transpired since they last knew each other. Larsen's work has been lauded for its exploration of race, gender, class, and sexuality amongst African Americans in early part of the 20th century. Now considered as a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Larsen's writing gives a firsthand insight into the struggle of African Americans during this era. Along with her two novels three of Larsen's short stories, "The Wrong Man," "Freedom," and "Sanctuary" are presented together here in this volume.
Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Nella Larsen by Jacquelyn Y. McLendon Summary
Nella Larsen's novels Quicksand and Passing, published at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, fell out of print and were thus little known for many years. Now widely available and taught, Quicksand and Passing challenge conventional "tragic mulatta" and "passing" narratives. In part 1, "Materials," of Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Nella Larsen, the editor surveys the canon of Larsen's writing, evaluates editions of her works, recommends secondary readings, and compiles a list of useful multimedia resources for teaching. The essays in part 2, "Approaches," aim to help students better understand attitudes toward women and race during the Harlem Renaissance, the novels' relations to other artistic movements, and legal debates over racial identities in the early twentieth century. In so doing, contributors demonstrate how new and seasoned instructors alike might use Larsen's novels to explore a wide range of topics--including Larsen's short stories and letters, the relation between her writings and her biography, and the novels' discussion of gender and sexuality.
Nella Larsen - African-American Artist of the Harlem Renaissance by Kathrin Haubold Summary
Seminar paper from the year 2002 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1 (A), University of Frankfurt (Main) (Institute for England and American Studies), course: Harlem Renaissance, 17 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: This seminar paper will sketch some of the elements of the cultural “Zeitgeist” that shaped and was reflected in Nella Larsen’s writings. But it will concentrate on the novels that she left behind: Quicksand and Passing. An important topic Larsen is dealing with is race-identity. Larsen assimilates these themes in her two novels, not by representing the lower-class problem, but more by focusing on the life and problems of middle-class females. It is more the psychological than the sociological side she portrays. This paper demonstrates that race identity and race dualism reflects Larsen’s own life story. First I will give an introduction on the Harlem Renaissance era. Then I will focus on Nella Larsen’s life. I will examine her two novels Quicksand and Passing to find out how race identity and race dualism is assimilated in her novels.
Racial Passing by Sandra Radtke Summary
Thesis (M.A.) from the year 2006 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, Dresden Technical University, 36 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: In the following, I would like to give a brief abstract of my thesis. Chiefly, I want to explore three major novels of the Harlem Renaissance - Nella Larsen's Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929) as well as Jessie Fauset's Plum Bun (1929). As all of them deal with racial passing, this issue will be the topic of the first part in order to provide an insight into the matter. The main focus will be on black-to-white passing, which is primarily a cultural phenomenon of the United States. After a definition of the term with the help of several basic typologies, I would like to proceed to concomitants like secrecy, the question of guilt and the white people's view on passing. Subsequently, the passer ought to be the focus of closer examination, followed by an exploration of laws and folk beliefs evolving around the mulatto as the typical passing figure. After this theoretical embedding, I will take a closer look at passing in literature including an analysis of the emergence of the phenomenon as a literary genre. Additionally, the passing figure in literature, the "tragic mulatto," is to be investigated. Concluding, a chapter on other forms of passing shall be added for the sake of completeness. In the second part, these theoretical cognitions are supposed to be employed to find an approach to the novels that are going to be examined with regard to the matters that evolve around passing, i.e. the secrecy involved, the return home and the tragic death of the heroine. Juda Bennett's list of similarities among passing novels is supposed to provide a framework here. Afterwards, other forms of passing depicted in the novels will come to the fore including an examination of racism in connection with sexism.
Racial Passing: A Comparative Reading of Jessie Fauset’s "Plum Bun" and Nella Larsen’s "Passing" and "Quicksand" by Sandra Radtke Summary
Thesis (M.A.) from the year 2006 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,0, Dresden Technical University, 36 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: In the following, I would like to give a brief abstract of my thesis. Chiefly, I want to explore three major novels of the Harlem Renaissance - Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929) as well as Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun (1929). As all of them deal with racial passing, this issue will be the topic of the first part in order to provide an insight into the matter. The main focus will be on black-to-white passing, which is primarily a cultural phenomenon of the United States. After a definition of the term with the help of several basic typologies, I would like to proceed to concomitants like secrecy, the question of guilt and the white people’s view on passing. Subsequently, the passer ought to be the focus of closer examination, followed by an exploration of laws and folk beliefs evolving around the mulatto as the typical passing figure. After this theoretical embedding, I will take a closer look at passing in literature including an analysis of the emergence of the phenomenon as a literary genre. Additionally, the passing figure in literature, the “tragic mulatto”, is to be investigated. Concluding, a chapter on other forms of passing shall be added for the sake of completeness. In the second part, these theoretical cognitions are supposed to be employed to find an approach to the novels that are going to be examined with regard to the matters that evolve around passing, i.e. the secrecy involved, the return home and the tragic death of the heroine. Juda Bennett’s list of similarities among passing novels is supposed to provide a framework here. Afterwards, other forms of passing depicted in the novels will come to the fore including an examination of racism in connection with sexism.
Passing and the Fictions of Identity by Elaine K. Ginsberg,Donald E. Pease Summary
Passing refers to the process whereby a person of one race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation adopts the guise of another. Historically, this has often involved black slaves passing as white in order to gain their freedom. More generally, it has served as a way for women and people of color to access male or white privilege. In their examination of this practice of crossing boundaries, the contributors to this volume offer a unique perspective for studying the construction and meaning of personal and cultural identities. These essays consider a wide range of texts and moments from colonial times to the present that raise significant questions about the political motivations inherent in the origins and maintenance of identity categories and boundaries. Through discussions of such literary works as Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, The Autobiography of an Ex–Coloured Man, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Hidden Hand, Black Like Me, and Giovanni’s Room, the authors examine issues of power and privilege and ways in which passing might challenge the often rigid structures of identity politics. Their interrogation of the semiotics of behavior, dress, language, and the body itself contributes significantly to an understanding of national, racial, gender, and sexual identity in American literature and culture. Contextualizing and building on the theoretical work of such scholars as Judith Butler, Diana Fuss, Marjorie Garber, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Passing and the Fictions of Identity will be of value to students and scholars working in the areas of race, gender, and identity theory, as well as U.S. history and literature. Contributors. Martha Cutter, Katharine Nicholson Ings, Samira Kawash, Adrian Piper, Valerie Rohy, Marion Rust, Julia Stern, Gayle Wald, Ellen M. Weinauer, Elizabeth Young
The Politics of Color in the Fiction of Jessie Fauset and Nella Larsen by Jacquelyn Y. McLendon Summary
Jessie Fauset and Nella Larsen played prominent roles in the black literary heyday known as the Harlem Renaissance. Revived by feminists in the late 1970s and early 1980s, their novels raise important questions about gender and race. In this book Jacquelyn McLendon looks at Jessie Fauset's Plum Bun (1929) and Comedy: American Style (1933) and Nella Larsen's Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929) and finds them revisionary and subversive. She goes beyond previous feminist criticism to focus on the authors' works rather than their lives and moves toward developing new theoretical ways of looking at black women's writing. McLendon shows how the nineteenth-century stereotype of the tragic mulatto as invented by white writers became both a political tool and an artistic device in the capable hands of Jessie Fauset and Nella Larsen. Using black female protagonists who often passed as whites, Fauset and Larsen showed that blacks were despised not for their lack of education or money or manners, but simply because they were black. Fauset and Larsen attempted to blur the lines of distinction between classes and to counter racist representations of blackness and black female sexuality by satirizing the middle class and using the tragic mulatto and passing as metaphors. Focusing on the psychology of black women, they brought up issues of identity and difference for both blacks and women and insisted on the authenticity of the black experience of mulattoes and black middle-class society.