B6 5\30-7/07 MW 6:00-10:00 PM CAC 04574 PERSSON FH-A1
“Invisible Man from Jim Crow to Black Lives Matter”
Ralph Ellison’s groundbreaking Invisible Man has, since its arrival on the American literary scene in 1952, occupied a central symbolic position for thinking about America and the American novel. In this seminar, we will use Ellison’s novel and essays as a lens through which to consider postwar American history from Jim Crow to Black Lives Matter. We will begin by delving deeply into the complex literary landscape Ellison constructs in Invisible Man, identifying its themes, metaphors, and narrative strategies, and by situating the novel in the social, historical, and cultural matrix in which it first appeared. From there, we will move up to the present through a series of moments when Ellison and his novel has come to mediate discourse about race, integration, and the role of the African American writer and public intellectual. Episodes in this history include exchanges about the role of protest in African American writing, Ellison’s tense relation to the Black Arts Movement, and recent critical attempts to imagine what it would mean to think about his novel as explicitly tied to the social world of Jim Crow segregation. We will conclude by tracing Ellison’s continued influence by reading Percival Everett’s Erasure (2003), a contemporary rewriting of Invisible Man, and by considering if and how his novel—and its animating concept-metaphor of invisibility—might be said to speak to the presidency of Barack Obama and the emergence of Black Lives Matter.
For this seminar, students will be required to complete one close reading paper, one research paper, and give one presentation on secondary reading material. Regular class participation is also required.