Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Abstract

In her essay “Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality,” Evelynn Hammonds states that, historically, black women have reacted to repressive discourses “with silence, secrecy, and a partially self-chosen invisibility” (Hammonds 132). While Hammonds statement may be true, there were, in fact, black women writers who wrote in opposition to these dominant stereotypes and repressive discourses; two such authors are Nella Larsen in her 1928 novel Quicksand and Zora Neale Hurston with her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1 Both novels are centered on young mulatta women, one from a well-educated, professional, and somewhat unstable middle class, and one from a lower, servile, and rural class – Helga Crane and Janie Crawford, respectively. Although, Larsen and Hurston used different techniques to write in opposition to the ignorance surrounding the black female community by informing readers what it means to be a black – or mulatta – woman, they both advocate for a better way of life for black women, one free of stereotyping, violence, exploitation, and hatred. Both authors employ race and class in their novels in order to demonstrate the unseen struggle that millions of African Americans endured; they also showed readers how, by truly uniting as one force, the black community could lead better lives than the ones forced upon them by the dominant white society.

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