Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to Invisible Man

by Lucas E. Morel
Pub. Date:
University Press of Kentucky
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Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison learned from Mark Twain that "a novel could be fashioned as a raft of hope, to keep us afloat as we tried to negotiate the snags and whirlpools that mark our nation's vacillating course toward and away from the democratic ideal." In one of his last public speeches, Ellison challenged American writers "to take individual responsibility for the health of American democracy" in their literary endeavors. The original essays in Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope illuminate Ellison's work to enrich the political sensibilities and strengthen the democratic resolve of his audience. In Ellison's day, rampant social upheaval was the hallmark of a divided America, and those hoping to improve society through concerted democratic action encountered powerful opposition. Conflict and discord filled buses and churches, courtrooms and legislative halls, dinner tables and negotiating tables. Warriors on all sides took their battles into the streets, and this atmosphere permeated the text of Ellison's masterpiece, Invisible Man.

Ellison's relevance as a political novelist, essayist, and commentator did not end with the publication of Invisible Man or as the civil rights movement waned. This collection of essays demonstrates that Invisible Man deserves its place in the pantheon of great American novels and that Ellison should be regarded as an essential framer of recent American political thought. His conception of America's basic democratic project -- strangers, bound together by common citizenship, crafting a vision for America's future and forging consensus on the path toward that goal -- is especially valid in the new century as the nation struggles with divisions and contradictions unimagined during Ellison's lifetime. The essays in Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope probe the political lessons of the landmark novel Invisible Man, in which Ellison reflects on the sacred ideals that set the American republic into motion. He explores the contrast between modern statements of those ideals and the policies that subverted them, ceaselessly exhorting his fellow writers to bring their acute insights to these crucial questions. Drawing from literature, politics, history, and the law, the contributors demonstrate how Ralph Ellison set the tone and agenda for a politically charged era.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813123127
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 03/01/2004
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

Prologue: Recovering the Political Artistry of Invisible Man1
Chapter 1Affirming the Principle22
Chapter 2Ralph Ellison on the Tragi-Comedy of Citizenship37
Chapter 3Ralph Ellison's American Democratic Individualism58
Chapter 4Invisible Man and Juneteenth: Ralph Ellison's Literary Pursuit of Racial Justice91
Chapter 5Invisible Man as "a form of social power": The Evolution of Ralph Ellison's Politics105
Chapter 6Invisible Man as Literary Analog to Brown v. Board of Education119
Chapter 7Ralph Ellison and the Problem of Cultural Authority: The Lessons of Little Rock142
Chapter 8Ralph Ellison and the Invisibility of the Black Intellectual: Historical Reflections on Invisible Man158
Chapter 9The Litany of Things: Sacrament and History in Invisible Man171
Chapter 10Documenting Turbulence: The Dialectics of Chaos in Invisible Man193
Epilogue: The Lingering Question of Personality and Nation in Invisible Man: "And could politics ever be an expression of love?"218
Works Cited230

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