Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (LIT2277.01)

Benjamin Anastas

Before Donald Glover donned prosthetic whiteface for the “Teddy Perkins” episode of Atlanta, before Get Out flipped the contemporary horror movie on white audiences, Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man turned the bildungsroman, a realist staple since the 18th century, into a wild phantasmagoria about structural racism in the U.S. and the experience of Black Americans. “All novels are about certain minorities,” Ralph Ellison insisted in a 1955 interview with The Paris Review. “The individual is a minority. The universal in the novel—and isn’t that what we’re all clamoring for these days?—is reached only through the depiction of the specific man in a specific circumstance.” The enduring power of Ellison’s Invisible Man (1953) is due, at least in part, to the specific power of its depiction of African-American life between the period of Reconstruction and the 1950s, and in the literary and philosophical traditions that Ellison embraced in order to tell this story truthfully. We’ll explore these traditions and how they are reflected in work by Ellison, by his friend and collaborator Albert Murray, and we’ll steep ourselves in the music that helped animate the novel: Jazz. Most of all, we’ll perform a close, slow reading of Ellison’s masterwork throughout the term and analyze it from multiple critical angles.


Learning Outcomes:
-To gain an understanding of complex literary texts and the traditions that inform them;
-To reconsider Ralph Ellison as a thinker and place his ideas about American culture in a contemporary context;
-To communicate ideas clearly in discussion and in critical writing;
-To collaborate with peers on goal-oriented projects.


Delivery Method: Hybrid
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 10:00AM - 11:50AM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: Hybrid , All courses , Literature
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