Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Elizabeth West

Second Advisor

Barbara Ladd

Third Advisor

Calvin Thomas

Abstract

Nella Larsen, Anzia Yezierska, and Evelyn Scott were New York neighbors and literary contemporaries in the 1920s, yet they moved in very different social circles. From Larsen, the award-winning psychological novelist of the Harlem Renaissance; to Yezierska, the Jewish immigrant composing in Yiddish-English a boot-straps story of Americanization; to Evelyn Scott, the genteel-born Southern woman penning high modernist tales of scandal, these very different women nonetheless shared a common quality: they were all rule-breakers, pariahs in their hometowns, interlopers wherever they dare tread, who all penned controversial autobiographical works documenting their experiences as cultural outsiders in modern America. Finding no community, race, or class with which to align these authors and their life stories, contemporary critics defaulted into accusation of falsehood, immorality, and insanity. Their works could not possibly be true or sane, I argue, because they could not be classified.

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