Ralph Ellison ‘s novel, Invisible Man, was an instant success, becoming a fixture in the American literary canon. However, his career taken as a whole could be considered a failure. His struggle to complete his second novel, Juneteenth, an odyssey that lasted over 40 years, could be read as testimony either to his ineptitude or his hubris. Toni Morrison, by contrast, is the author of nine novels, a Nobel laureate, and widely considered one of the most gifted writers of her generation. Her work is the focus of a massive critical enterprise by literary scholars all over the world. In this seminar, we will place the fictions and essays of Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison into conversation, and in so doing , ruminate upon the novel’s role in fashioning a polyvocal concept of American citizenship, as well as its ability to fully imagine the African American subject. We will also consider both writers’ contribution to our critical vocabulary and the role each has played in making American literary criticism a more dialogic practice.