Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Speaking in Tongues and Dancing DiasporaBlack Women Writing and Performing$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Mae G. Henderson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195116595

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 April 2021

Nella Larsen’s Passing

Nella Larsen’s Passing

(p.152) 11 Nella Larsen’s Passing
Speaking in Tongues and Dancing Diaspora

Mae G. Henderson

Oxford University Press

Reviewing the critical reception and scholarship on Nella Larsen’s Passing, the chapter documents the historical and contemporary appeal of the “passing plot” in US fiction, along with the social phenomenon of race passing. Like the slave narrative, the passing novel is structured by border crossings and functions as a form of social critique. And while, like many modernist texts, Passing focuses on the theme of identity, Larsen rewrites essentialist notions of identity with the postmodernist concept of performative identity. The chapter proposes that Larsen, in effect, narratively theorizes the postmodern debate around essentialism vs. constructionism, challenging the idea of innate racial difference while embracing an ideology of racial uniqueness. Juxtaposing central characters Clare, who embodies textual performance, and Irene, who embodies readerly performance, the chapter demonstrates how these miscegenous figures represent “a crisis of representation.” Larsen’s achievement, it concludes, lies in her reductio ad absurdum refutation of the essentialist position.

Keywords:   Mae G. Henderson, Nella Larsen, Passing, passing plot, race passing, miscegenation, identity, modernism, postmodernism, essentialism, “crisis of representation,” textual performance, readerly performance, performative identity

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .