Passing (Norton Critical Edition) / Edition 1

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Overview

Nella Larsen is a central figure in African American, Modernist, and women’s literature.
Larsen's status as a Harlem Renaissance woman writer was rivaled by only Zora Neale Hurston’s. This Norton Critical Edition of her electrifying 1929 novel includes Carla Kaplan’s detailed and thought-provoking introduction, thorough explanatory annotations, and a Note on the Text. An unusually rich “Background and Contexts” section connects the novel to the historical events of the day, most notably the sensational Rhinelander/Jones case of 1925. Fourteen contemporary reviews are reprinted, including those by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Mary Griffin, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Published accounts from 1911 to 1935—by Langston Hughes, Juanita Ellsworth, and Caleb Johnson, among others—provide a nuanced view of the contemporary cultural dimensions of race and passing, both in America and abroad. Also included are Larsen’s statements on the novel and on passing, as well as a generous selection of her letters and her central writings on “The Tragic Mulatto(a)” in American literature. Additional perspective is provided by related Harlem Renaissance works. “Criticism” provides fifteen diverse critical interpretations, including those by Mary Helen Washington, Cheryl A. Wall, Deborah E. McDowell, David L. Blackmore, Kate Baldwin, and Catherine Rottenberg. A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393979169
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/19/2006
  • Series: Norton Critical Editions Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 584
  • Sales rank: 278,140
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Carla Kaplan is the Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University. She is the author of The Erotics of Talk: Women's Writing and Feminist Paradigms, Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, and Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance (forthcoming). She is also editor of Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk Tales from the Gulf States and Dark Symphony and Other Works by Elizabeth Laura Adams.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Nella Larsen's Erotics of Race

The Text of Passing 1

Backgrounds and Contexts 83

Criticism 335

Nella Larsen: A Chronology 533

Selected Bibliography Ruth Blandon Blandon, Ruth Lucia Hodgson Hodgson, Lucia 539

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 65 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(15)

2 Star

(13)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 65 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 11, 2010

    Very good; thought provoking

    This classic novel takes on the age-old question of African-Americans passing for white, and the consequences of that decision. The two main characters make different decisions and expereince different ends.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 3, 2010

    Very Very slow book

    This was really hard to get through. It seemed to me to jump from place to place

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2007

    A reviewer

    It's unfortunate that most people have never even heard of Nella Larsen let alone read her two indispensible novels, 'Quicksand' and 'Passing.' She was an incredibly talented writer and deserves to be compared with Virginia Woolf when it comes to complex characterizations. 'Passing' is a short novel but contains great thematic depth. This is a novel concerned not only with racial identity but also issues dealing with gender and sexuality. 'Passing' is a novel that left me spellbound with its vivid descriptions and provocative ideas. The two central characters, Irene and Clare, are very strongly written as they offer a keen insight into what it meant to be 'black' in 1920's America. The ending, in particular, is masterful because of its ambiguity. Highly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2002

    a classic from the Harlem Renaissance

    This book is required reading for anyone who is interested in black literary history or who wants to read work by women writers from the Harlem Renaissance. It's a fairly easy read, in that it's only around 100 pages, but it's quite a page turner and really pushes the reader to think about complicated issues of race and gender.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2011

    Required reading by My UHD Professor, Chuck jackson

    He takes his classes seriously and recommends things that we can discuss. this book was good. I'm not really an avid book reader, but this might just do the trick

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2011

    so so

    this book was way to wordy and it ended in what seemed like the middle of the story. overall it had a good concept though.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2010

    A Glimpse of Race Relations in the 1920's

    I am working on a novel in which one of the characters is passing. My character begins his duplicitous life in the late 1920s, the era Larsen wrote about in Passing. I read Passing for background on what my character might have encountered in this era in America. I found Nella Larsen's prose insightful and engaging. The intoduction and notes by Thadious M. Davis provided more insight and context for today's reader. I recommend the book to anyone who is intested in African American culture from the African American perspective. Again, Larsen and Davis offer an insightful and engaging persepective of this complicated life choice that is also entertaining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2001

    Not what I expected

    Reading this book is like driving on a road with speed bumps. There is always something that kills the story line. There was definately something missing. If you don't like endings that don't have an ending this is not the book for you. However, I found that the ending was appropriate. Irene and Clare are the extreme cases of what is inside all people. I really thought it was going to be better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2014

    A Unique Story About Racism  Nella Larsen was an American writer

    A Unique Story About Racism 
    Nella Larsen was an American writer during the Harlem Renaissance, which was a period with high racial tensions. Nella made it possible to connect with the issues of racism and sexism through her unique characters and plot. The idea of "passing" over as a white person and hiding one’s true identity is the main focus of this novel. 
    In the fictional novel, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry are childhood friends, who are both half- black but are able to pass as  white, split up after the death of Clare's father. They meet later in life in Chicago and learn about each other's lives'. Clare has completely passed as a white and even married a white racist and Irene lives in Harlem and is married to a black doctor. Irene wants nothing to do with Clare but with her charms she is able to convince Irene for them to be friends again. The two become fascinated with each other’s lives’ and this all leads to a very tragic ending. 
    The novel is very memorable and thought-provoking. It provides digs deeps into the issues and effects of racism on an individual, a family and society as a whole. I was able to understand Irene as well as Clare, their behavior, and the fascination and jealously they had towards each other. I felt sympathy but also respect towards Irene because of the struggles that come with embracing her black heritage.
    The novel overall is a quick read that left me shocked and surprised as tragedy unfolded in the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2013

    Awesome account

    A subtle account of some of the choices blacks made to survive in America.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2012

    A quick read with substance

    By a woman author from the Harlem Renaissance, Passing is a story about the importance and risk inherent in transcending social constructs (what you should be depending on your sex, race, marital status, etc.). Although the era in the story has passed, many of the conflicts affecting the characters are issues we continue to face today but dont usually discuss. Nelsons takes these on in an honest voice that conveys urgency but lets you reach your own conclusion, when you are ready.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2012

    Whoa

    Not a long story but one that will live in your mind long after asking, "why?" I felt like the ending was abrupt. I still don't think I know what happened officially.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Wow

    This book explores a world that most of us are so far removed from. Its a quick read but a story you will never forget. All women should read this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2012

    KP

    The book was ok. It was very descriptive although a little too wordy at times. The story line was creative. Good, quick read.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A Classic from the Harlem Renaissance

    Nella Larson's Passing is a must-read if you're interested in studying African American Literature, or if you're interested in reading about a fascinating and controversial subject (light skinned African Americans passing for white), especially considering the context of the roaring 20s, the Harlem Renaissance, and some of the timely debates between well known African American authors like W.E.B. Du Bois, George Schuyler, and Langston Hughes. I didn't know what the term "passing" meant until I read this book, and I thought Larson did a good job of creating a realistic setting, with vivid characters and constant conflict, to show the reader this controversial topic. Moreover, Larson created a lot of sexual tension and symbolism with words like "coffee," "cream," and "spreading," and she incorporated concepts like an "ivory mask" and a "having" way. Yet, there was something about Larson's writing style that annoyed me. Perhaps it was her wordiness and all her little asides. For example, "[t]he letter which she just put out of her hand was, to her taste, a bit too lavish in its wordiness, a shade too unreserved in the manner of its expression. It roused again that old suspicion that Clare was acting, not consciously, perhaps--that is, not too consciously--but, none the less, acting" (52). Thus, Larson gets a "passing" rating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2012

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    Posted May 11, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2011

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