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RALPH ELLISON: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY
MORE ABOUT INVISIBLE MAN
The Hero's Journey
1) Obtain a copy of Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers and select a segment defining the hero's quest for identity and correlate with Invisible Man's heroic journey as described in the film.
2) Compare the "rite of passage" for Invisible Man to other literary "rites" familiar to students - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye and others. Is the "sophisticated, troubling maturity" described in the DVD present in other famous American literary works?
1) Find textual evidence from the novel to either support or reject the interpretations offered by the critics cited in this segment.
2) Discuss the gravity of the controversial sexual elements of the scene with the ribald humor that Ellison employed which is present in the scene. Is the humor appropriate?
1) Discuss what kind
of man Dr. Bledsoe is as revealed in dramatization. Select quotations
from the Bledsoe chapters that support your analysis.
3) Search artist Renee Billingslea's installation entitled "Lynching in America" and read her statement about her art. Discuss the impact of Dr. Bledsoe's lynching remarks to Invisible Man in light of her art.
1) Locate copy of The Atlanta Compromise Speech (e.g., in Washington's Up From Slavery), then find examples in Chapter 6 of Invisible Man to establish the Bledsoe/Booker T. Washington connection.
1) By research, determine
why the American Communist Party would appeal to black intellectuals like
Ellison, Richard Wright and Langston Hughes.
3) Teachers should consult Mark Naison's Communists in Harlem During the Depression and Mark Solomon's The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African Americans,1917-1936.
2) Locate a copy of "Stage on Screen: Twilight Los Angeles" performed by Anna Deeavere Smith and compare The Rodney King riots of 1992 and the Harlem riots of 1943 as reimagined by Ralph Ellison to understand the paradoxical nature of rioting as both violent event and carnival-like event.
1) Students should draw up a list in small groups of examples of the "anger" of Ralph Ellison in Invisible Man and compare their lists with the whole class to arrive at some conclusions about the tone of the novel.
2) Compare the "lack
of social activism" of Ralph Ellison as posed in the interviews with
a similar charge leveled at British writer Joseph Conrad in relation to
his novel Heart of Darkness. See African novelist Chinua Achebe's
interview with Bill Moyers and discuss the role of the novelist as activist.
ELLISON AND HIS CRITICS: A FORUM
Integration vs. Black Nationalism
1) Discuss the question, what are the cultural forces that have contributed to the longevity of Invisible Man in American culture?
2) Discuss Invisible Man as a novel that supports the notion of a multi-racial democracy.
3) Go online to research the significant current activists on both the integrationist and segregationist sides of the racial divide.
4) Discuss as a class whether the "double consciousness" described in the film is present in other ethnic fiction - Asian-American, Hispanic-American, etc.
5) Select a segment from the documentary film I Remember Harlem or from internet sources to discuss the life and views of Marcus Garvey. Then compare Garvey with Ras the Destroyer.
The Blues, Heroic Individualism and Collective Action
1) Obtain a copy of
Louis Armstrong's "What Did I Do to be so Black and Blue," play
for the class, and discuss the point of view in the song. Why would Ralph
Ellison choose this song in particular to highlight in his novel?
Black Arts Movement: Art or Propaganda
1) Have students cite or research other novels that have helped change the way Americans felt about race or other social or political problems (Uncle Tom's Cabin, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Native Son, etc), then discuss the role of serious writing as an agent of social change, especially as it relates to Invisible Man.
African American Identity: African or American
1) Students should
read "Change the Joke and Slip the Yoke" in Shadow and Act
prior to discussing as an entire class the role of black folklore as presented
in Invisible Man as a necessary ingredient of identity.
1) Assign groups of
students a particular critical essay on the importance of Ellison's contribution
to American and world literature. A selected chairperson of each group
could then share the essence of the essay with the whole class. Instructor
could help the class arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to his legacy.
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