Creating a terministic screen of "mothering" in Nella Larsen's Passing and Fannie Hurst's Imitation of Life




Kent, Paula

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Though some attention has been paid to the topic of motherhood within the novels of Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929) and Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life (1932), critical attention mainly focuses on issues of race, class, or gender. Moreover, in regards to the novels, rhetorical consideration of the term “mothering” and the act of it within the novels garners even less attention. Using the Burkean concept of “terministic screens,” this dissertation seeks to create such a screen for the term “mothering” based on the characters found within the two novels. Consideration is paid to cultural concepts of the time, criticism of the novels, and the novels themselves in an attempt to analyze the “symbol systems” (to borrow from Burke) that intersect to create a terministic screen of “mothering” in America. The analysis here seeks to expose a new framework with which to view American women’s fiction and the discourse surrounding the authors’ treatment of mother characters of the time.



Language, literature and linguistics, Social sciences, Burke, Kenneth, Hurst, Fannie, Larsen, Nella, Mothering, Passing, Terministic screen