Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor's Name

Katharine Capshaw Smith

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Marilyn Hoder-Salmon

Third Advisor's Name

Bruce Harvey

Date of Defense



The purpose of this study was to analyze the ways in which Harlem Renaissance-era novelists Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston defy the "tragic mulatta" as a literary convention in their novels Quicksand, Passing, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. They seek to transform a tradition that not only perpetuates and reinforces essentialist notions of "blackness" and "whiteness," but also disregards the authenticity of a biracial identity. Through their revisions of this prototype, Larsen and Hurston advocate the construction of a biracial female identity for their mulatta characters that empowers them to resist the racial/gender stereotypes historically imposed upon them. By positing the need for multiplicity as opposed to a divided self, these authors resist essentialism and challenge the definition of "true womanhood.”




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