Miscegenation Aesthetics: Marriage, Maternity, and Modernism in the Life and Writing of Margery Latimer

Emily Lutenski, Saint Louis University
Vol. 38, No. 1 (Spring 2019), 105-130

Today, despite having published four well-regarded books of fiction in the late 1920s and early 1930s, modernist writer Margery Latimer is best known as the white wife of Jean Toomer, whose 1923 Cane has been considered a foundational text of the Harlem Renaissance. Indeed, her marriage to Toomer has been the touchstone for persistent debates over his racial identity, which has meant Latimer’s distinctive contributions to both American literature and critical thought about the nexus of race, gender, sexuality, and nation have been obscured. This essay engages debates over racial identity and the construction of American literary history by attending to Latimer as more than Toomer’s wife. By excavating both her published and archived writing, it argues that her intimate and aesthetic practices were efforts to undo the white supremacist logics of anti-miscegenation and reconsiders the grounds upon which writers and their work have been remembered or forgotten.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]