Nella Larsen: Contribution as American Novelist

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      Nella Larsen (1891-1964) was called the mystery woman of the Harlem Renaissance. She produced only two novels, Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929). Du Bois praises it as “the best piece of fiction” by Afro-American women to win a Guggenheim Fellowship for Literature which enabled her to spend a year researching for further novels in Europe. But no more books she wrote. She lived the final years in a greater obscurity, even than Hurston.

      Larsen two remarkable long fictions that were rediscovered after her death, are very different from Their Eyes Watching God. Her location is more bourgeois educated, sophisticated women of mixed race, rare caught up in troublesome confusions of race, class and gender as they try to negotiate their way through a complex social milieu. The episodic structure of her narratives creates a multiple subjective spaces for those characters, as they search for a means of realizing identity. They achieve their personal fulfillment in a world that seems intent on denying them as individuals. Quicksand embodies the traditional theme of the tragic mulatto into a poignant, pioneering portrayal of a modern woman - and in the process, offers one of the first serious studies of those aspiring to the African - American middle class. Passing rewrites the story of crossing the color banners in psychological terms. Both are no doubt, considered to be the major novels of racial and sexual identity in the modernist mode.

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