Reading Groups

Passing Strange


Led by: Anne Fernald


Time: 6 - 7:30pm


Meets: Every other Wednesday, four sessions


Dates: 2/8, 2/22, 3/8, 3/22

Members: $120

Nonmembers: $140



In this class we'll read three novels, two from the Harlem Renaissance and one British. Nella Larsen and Jessie Fauset's books deal with race passing in New York in the 1920's, looking at the lives of light-skinned black women who "pass" for white. Virginia Woolf's last novel, Between the Acts, takes place on a single day at a country house where the family is hosting the annual village pageant, written and directed by a lesbian and outsider. For all the differences in context and theme, each of these novels takes an interest in women's lives, the roles they play, when they pretend and when they are authentic. In each book, other performing arts, especially music, painting and theater, play a role in how these characters define themselves.


1. Passing, Nella Larsen

2. Plum Bun, Jessie Fauset

3. Plum Bun, continued, Jessie Fauset

4. Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf


Participants should read Nella Larsen’s Passing before the first session.


Anne E. Fernald is the editor of the Cambridge University Press Mrs. Dalloway (2014) and author of Virginia Woolf: Feminism and the Reader (2006) as well as articles and reviews on Woolf and feminist modernism. An editor of The Norton Reader, a widely used anthology of essays, she teaches English and Women’s Studies at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. She occasionally updates her blog, Fernham, and can be found on twitter @fernham.