Black and white photo of Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison may be the preeminent black American author of the twentieth century, though he published only one novel, 1952’s Invisible Man. Over a career that spanned more than half a century, Ellison published two essay collections, wrote dozens of articles, and delivered numerous speeches, but he never published the second novel he had been composing for more than forty years.

This seminar provides an opportunity for close and comprehensive study of the oeuvre of a single writer. We’ll read all of Ellison’s major works and consider the relationships among his fiction, essays, interviews, and letters. At the same time, we shall engage the numerous strains of critical and theoretical discourse that surround Ellison. Finally, the course will provide unparalleled access to Ellison’s literary archive—the unpublished notes, drafts, and other materials housed in the Library of Congress.

MA-Lit Course Designation: Multicultural/Postcolonial Literature, A (Formalisms), C (Bodies/Identities/Collectivities), D (Cultures/Politics/Histories)