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Invisible Man and Ralph Ellison's Family Reunion

ENGL 200.302
instructor(s):
MW 3:30-5
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

In various interviews and essays, Ralph Ellison distinguishes between two types of literary influences that appear in his only published novel, Invisible Man: literary "relatives" and literary "ancestors." To better understand Ellison's relationship with his literary family, we will put Invisible Man into conversation with some of the works and authors he references such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Booker T. Washington, Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright. Several questions will guide our readings and discussions. How does Ellison engage with African American cultural forms like jazz, blues, religious oratory, and folklore as well as wider literary movements such as transcendentalism, realism, and modernism within Invisible Man? And, what is the relationship between Ellison's aesthetic technique and his views on American culture, politics, and society more generally? Although our readings will focus primarily on Invisible Man and other works of American literature, the course assignments are designed to accommodate students interested in any field of literary study. As a Junior Research Seminar, this course will help students to familiarize themselves with research methods and current scholarship in their area of interest, and ultimately, students will produce a final research essay or creative project in consultation with the instructor that explores any topic of their choice.