"New Negro" in the Old World
Culture & Performance in James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset, & Nella Larsen
Lund Studies in English 111

By Lena Ahlin
November 2006
Lund University
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
ISBN: 9197515809
205 pages, 6 x 8¾"
$79.50 Paper Original


Through the works of three leading literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance: James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset, and Nella Larsen, Lena Ahlin explores the relationship between the emerging black consciousness growing out of the cultural and political context of early 20th century America and the Old World of Europe. She suggests that in works by these authors - The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (Johnson), There is Confusion (Fauset), and Quicksand (Larsen) - the idea of performativity is used to critique ideas of racial essentialism and cultural authenticity. The novels themselves are understood to be performative, the works themselves being acts that helped to form the emerging black consciousness.

Special attention is paid to authenticity, especially in regards to the constitution of a black identity and a "black text." These novels, Ahlin suggests, do not simply affirm a shared black identity but instead are part of the beginnings of a discussion about what can (and cannot) signify "blackness" in the modern world.

Introduction to the Authors (James Weldon Johnson; Jessie Fauset; Nella Larsen)
Methodological Starting Points
Chapter 1. The Harlem Renaissance: Depicting the "New Negro"
Chapter 2. Between Two Worlds: On Being an African American in Europe
Chapter 3. Black Performance/Performances of Blackness
Chapter 4. Forms of Black Culture: Race and Representation

Literary Criticism
Black Studies

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