American Literature

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American Literature

Nella Larsen was a famous novelist and short story writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance era, one writer has called this era as "an era of extraordinary progress in American black art and literature" (Thadious, 133-145) Although her literary activity is few in numbers, but the work is of extraordinary quality, Which earns her recognition from the contemporaries and critics even today. In 1928 and 1929 Nella Larsen published two novels, Quicksand and passing, respectively, both of which focus on the lives of African American women and their place in society.

Nella Larsen created brilliant female characters in her novels who fought for equal rights and social recognition. Larsen refers to the gendering of racial authenticity by presenting readers with an extensive study of the female characters. She pointed the intersections of race and gender, and in doing so, she demonstrated how the discussion of black identity, which often restricts the range of female identity, is possible to maintain a certain standard of authenticity. (George, 133-145)

Nella Larsen, in her life and through her characters, struggled with issues of race, self determination, and social recognition.

In the American literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, black characters who pass for white represent a paradox. Under the "one drop" rule that governs the relations across the race in the nation, they are legally black. (Darryl, 67-71)Nella Larsen's novel passing offers the opportunity to reconsider the relationship between race and space. The novel provides an account of space that is highly radicalized. It describes 1920s Chicago as having heavily restricted white and black spaces. However, race itself is far more uncertain. The novel's two main characters, Irene and Clare, though black by blood in US American racial systems, are both able to pass as white. Their skin color renders their race ultimately unknowable, they can easily cross the borders between the white and the black world. By using Frantz Fanon's notions of corporeal systems and epidermal systems, and by focusing on skin itself, it is possible to open up another way of seeing race and space in the novel. The paper argues that these racial systems ultimately clash, and come to grief, in the novel. Even so, the clash of bodily systems enables a possible resolution to the problem of seeing the person either through black/white grids of signification and power, or through their aggregation into phenotypes or races. In this view, bodily systems may come to define race and space, but not exclusively in one way or another. (Thadious, 133-145)

“People see what they want to see, and then they'll claim you. Not claim you, but label you. It is because it's not really about claiming you. The white people don't want you around. You are not really white… And for Blacks—and it's not for all Blacks—there's sort of ther feeling that, yeah, she is black and yes, we will call her black, but she's not black like we are… I was recognized by the black community as an outstanding black student, of ...
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