Tuesday, May 28, 2024

“A kind of emotional excitement” in Nella Larsen’s novel “Passing” (1929) and “exoticism” in Rebecca Hall’s 2021 film adaptation

In Nella Larsen's "Passing" (1929), the black main character Irene Redfield explains her theory about white women's interest in black men to her white friend Hugh Wentworth: "I think that what they feel is — well, a kind of emotional excitement." In the 2021 film "Passing", director and screenwriter Rebecca Hall kept Larsen's words for this dialogue but also has Irene (Tessa Thompson) introduce the concept of "exoticism". Today, when I heard that word while watching the movie for a second time, I wondered if it might be an academic anachronism. According to Google's Ngram viewer, it was used in the 1920s, but by 2019 it was used ten times as often. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 28 May 2024)

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