Nella Larsen : Voice of the Harlem Renaissance
Larson, Charles R., The World and I
During the 1960s, '70s, and well into the '80s, when literary historians were reconstructing the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Nella Larsen was described as a mystery woman. The dates cited for both her birth and death were contradictory, in each instance spread over several years. Her two novels--Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929)--were the focus of intense speculation about her own life, especially the second title, which led some academics to assume that the writer herself had crossed over the color line and passed as a white person after the Renaissance ended. It appeared that Larsen had disappeared, dropped off the earth, since there were no published obituaries, though some of her readers may have assumed that she was still alive. Some critics even asserted that she had stopped writing after publishing her two novels, giving in to bitterness about the marketplace and the end of interest in "Negro writing," as the term was often used at the time.
By the end of the 1980s, literary sleuths were beginning to set the record aright. In most instances what was revealed was the benign neglect of black writers after the Harlem Renaissance. A more startling fact: Yes, indeed, even in the twentieth century it has been possible for a number of America's artists (black, white; male, female; writer, painter) to live lives of quiet obscurity--even when invisibility is not forced upon them by the dominant culture.
Larsen's novels were available for the general reader, even if the facts of her life were not. A new generation of African-American women writers identified her as one of their literary ancestors, as they had also embraced the works and career of Zora Neale Hurston, most …
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Publication information: Article title: Nella Larsen : Voice of the Harlem Renaissance. Contributors: Larson, Charles R. - Author. Magazine title: The World and I. Volume: 15. Issue: 2 Publication date: February 2000. Page number: 293. © 1999 News World Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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