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ENGL 3550 Lecture Notes - Ralph Ellison, Bildungsroman

Course Code
ENGL 3550
Scott Schau

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Lecture Monday Feb. 11 2013
Part two: “writing the self”
-the bell jar, the invisible man
-first person narration
-now the narrator or speaker forges his or her identity
-readers access to interiority, subjectivity, introspection
-how narrator or speaker experiences and survives society
history (con’d)
-1914 Ralph Ellison born Oklahoma
-studied music (jazz trumpeter) at Tuskegee institute, Alabama
-to NYC in 1930’s became writer
-1945, end of WWII
-african American soldiers return to U.S.
-“how could you treat a negro as equal in war and then deny him equality
during times of peace” – R. Ellison
-ellison served as merchant marine in WWII
-post WWII, he began writing war story which mutated into invisible man
-1950’s black social protests and legal change
-1952 ellison published invisible man
-1953 first African American to win national book award
Invisible Man: Structure
-novel’s sheer size re. black voice
-“we who write no novels, histories or other books. What about us, I
though…” (439).
-size re. “boomerang” form (see 6, 573)
-cf. “echo” in TAP
-cyclical pattern holds episodes/chapters together
-bildungsroman: personal, ideological, political maturation
-history repeats itself for protagonist
-references back-and-forth, c. 1863-c. 1948
geographical journey
-historically, southern blacks to harlem after civil war
-in novel, protagonist begins and ends underground, repeatedly undergoing circular
journey of self-discovery
-see “re-birth” at midpoint 251
-cf. the America play
-how voice emerges form the hole
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