The great American novel: Invisible Man
Added 05-06-21 07:31:02am EST - “Yesterday the National Association of Scholars inaugurated a new series on the Great American Novel with a program on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. The program is accessible here at the NAS YouTube channel. Moderator David Randall…” - Powerlineblog.com
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Yesterday the National Association of Scholars inaugurated a new series on the Great American Novel with a program on Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The program is accessible here at the NAS YouTube channel. Moderator David Randall kindly led off the questions with one I had submitted in advance because I had a conflict with the live presentation on Zoom.
Check out the NAS site here. You can subscribe to the NAS email newsletter at the bottom of its About Us page. I think that’s how I learned about yesterday’s program.
Insofar as academic literary studies have declined into a sinister farce, I think this series is a brilliant use of the NAS’s time and resources. I found the panel to be disappointing, but the NAS’s selection of Ellison’s novel to lead off the new series is nothing short of perfect. It is a great American novel, if not the great American novel. It is up there with Moby Dick, with Huckleberry Finn, and with Faulkner’s masterpieces. Like them, it is inexhaustibly rich.
Published in 1952, it also remains an incredibly timely novel. It lends further support to the contrarian case Jeffrey Hart makes in When the Going Was Good! that the 1950’s represented a high-water mark in American art. Indeed, the novel is a classic of world literature.
In form the novel gives us the education of a young man. It is a so-called bildungsroman (or Bildungsroman). One can draw a straight line from Melville, Twain, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Faulkner, not to mention Homer, Vergil, Augustine, Hardy and Dostoyevsky — especially Dostoyevsky — to Ellison’s novel. Ellison was obviously a voracious reader. He unobtrusively turned his reading to his own purposes and staked his own claim to the territory. One can infer he thought that “appropriation” — cultural and otherwise — was the name of the game.
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