Constructing Race Across The Atlantic: Nella Larsen's <i>Quicksand</i>

Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson

in Transatlantic Women's Literature

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780748624454
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652242 | DOI:
Constructing Race Across The Atlantic: Nella Larsen's Quicksand

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This chapter analyses Nella Larsen's Quicksand, an early twentieth-century novella that offers a contested reading of racial otherness and transatlantic exoticism. It explains that the novella's narrative encourages a bleeding between spaces and identities as it describes the peripatetic life of the character of Helga Crane, who believes that she was born out of wedlock, and this early uncertainty over identity markers is repeated in a variety of ways throughout the plot. The chapter suggests that the five middle chapters of Quicksand provide a central focal point for exploring the problematics of location within the Atlantic world and discusses Helga's decision to abandon her dream of shuttling across the transatlantic space in order to mire herself in that which she has always avoided: maternity and poverty.

Keywords: Nella Larsen; Quicksand; novella; racial otherness; transatlantic exoticism; Helga Crane; identity markers; Atlantic world; transatlantic space; maternity

Chapter.  7188 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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