Date of Award

Spring 1995

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 1995 Briana Shay. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Black Studies, English Literature


The author begins this paper with a discussion of the importance that is at the heart of studying the fictional stories, “The Sleeper Wakes” and Quicksand. According to author observation, the texts that are most frequently available and addressed by critics are those penned either since the 1960’s or during slavery. The richness of the works in both historical time periods, particularly the contemporary one, is what originally brought the author to become interested in African-American women’s literature and then to Black Studies in general. However, although the author has clearly seen the presence of history in the contemporary fiction of authors such as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, there is a real gap in the author’s knowledge concerning what was written between the nineteenth and the mid-to-late twentieth centuries. To fill this gap, the author examined what social forces women during the Harlem Renaissance wrote under and, more importantly, the way in which they spoke their resistance and criticism through their fiction. “The Sleeper Wakes” by Jessie Redmon Fauset and Quicksand by Nella Larsen enabled the author to discover something beneath the surface of satin shoes and powdered noses strong voices of African-American women defining themselves and defining their world. The struggles of both the protagonists in these stories, although quite different characters, as well as the messages they communicate in different ways, whisper what we need to hear over the voids of the social convention, wealth, and refinement of their settings.