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Biography Born in Oklahoma City in 1916 o father was middle-class, a small business owner.

. Middle-name is Waldo, Ralph Waldo Ellison play on Emerson. o Emblematic of Ellisons investment both in tradition o and in the kind of radical individualism described in Emersons selfreliance a kind of individualism that is taken to be a typically American trait. attended Tuskegee Institute in 1933 o Tuskegee was founded by Booker T. Washington o to study classical music, which produced a life-long interest in music, evident in the selection you read today o Also, at Tuskegee, he was exposed to literary modernism and describes encountering The WasteLand as a formative experience for him. Moves to New York to pursue writing and like many artists and intellectuals becomes involved in the communist party. IM published in 1952 his ticket to the literary establishment. First and only novel o Ellisons work was championed by a group of people called the New York intellectuals included Lionel Trilling, Mary McCarthy, Hannah Arendt, and others who wielded enormous cultural influence and played an enormous role in the canonization and institutionalization of modernism. o One of the reasons that they liked his novel was because of its modernist self-consciousness you are very aware that youre reading a story. The novel has a densely layered symbolic structure that needs to be chewed over and unpacked and cant be easily summarized or reduced down to a political slogan. This move to a very literary, allegorical mode was borne out of a distrust of what we would call social realism the work of John Steinbeck, or a more appropriate touchstone for Ellison, Richard Wright. o refers to the work of painters, printmakers, photographers and film makers who draw attention to the everyday conditions of the working classes and the poor, and who are critical of the social structures that maintain these conditions. He was opposed to these kinds of novels because they represented a kind of epistemic closure that it merely confirms the rightness of liberal progressive views and doesnt challenge them. Here, Trilling is responding to the stultifying conditions of the postwar consensus the commitment to anti-communism abroad, Keynesianism at home, etc. Indeed,

Trilling asserts that In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation. Trilling was an internal critic of liberalism though he was committed to liberalism as a political goal, in a way that OConnor was not, he was nonetheless equally suspicious of the overweening self-confidence of the various technocrats and experts who sought to social engineer all of our problems away. The problem of with liberalism can be described in OConnor the idea that culture is in the head rather than the heart.

liberalism stood in a paradoxical relation to the emotions. The paradox is that liberalism is concerned with the emotions above all else, as proof of which the word happiness stands at the very center of its thought, but in its effort to establish the emotions, or certain among them, in some sort of freedom, liberalism somehow tends to deny them in their full possibility. So far as liberalism is active and positive, so far, that is, as it moves toward organization, it tends to select the emotions and qualities that are most susceptible of organization. As it carries out its active and positive ends it unconsciously limits its view of the world to what it can deal with, and it unconsciously tends to develop theories and principles, particularly in relation to the nature of the human mind, that justify its limitation. Its characteristic paradox appears again, and in another form, for in the very interests of its great primal act of imagination by which it establishes its essence and existencein the interests, that is, of its vision of a general enlargement and freedom and rational direction of human life-it drifts toward a denial of the emotions and the imagination. And in the very interest of affirming its confidence in the power of the mind, it inclines to constrict and make mechanical its conception of the nature of mind. This should remind us of Marcher and his own solipsism not only does liberalism limit its view of the world to what it can deal with, it doesnt even know that its doing so . liberalism seems to be the pursuit of affective states, but there is also something in liberalism that kills these states. This occurs through bureaucratization, as understood by Weber. Disenchantment, rationalization, science. Not associating these tendencies with the left or right, but in terms of liberalism. And everything is liberalism for Trilling.

It is one of the tendencies of liberalism to simplify, and this tendency is natural in view of the effort which liberalism makes to organize the elements of life in a rational way. And when we approach liberalism in a critical spirit, we shall fail in critical completeness if we do not take into account the value and necessity of its organizational impulse. But at the same time we must understand that organization means delegation, and agencies, and bureaus, and technicians, and that the ideas that can survive delegation, that can be passed on to agencies and bureaus and technicians, incline to be ideas of a certain kind

and of a certain simplicity: they give up something of their largeness and modulation and complexity in order to survive. The lively sense of contingency and possibility, and of those exceptions to the rule which may be the beginning of the end of the rulethis sense does not suit well with the impulse to organization. So that when we come to look at liberalism in a critical spirit, we have to expect that there will be a discrepancy between what I have called the primal imagination of liberalism and its present particular manifestations. To the carrying out of the job of criticizing the liberal imagination, literature has a unique relevance, not merely because so much of modern literature has explicitly directed itself upon politics, but more importantly because literature is the human activity that takes the fullest and most precise account of variousness, possibility, complexity, and difficulty. The claim is that liberalism requires its own anti-liberalism, and the latter is condition of liberalism that must be fulfilled; we further the liberal enterprise by recalling to it those elements that seem recognizably to be antithetical to it. Takes shape around modernist writing love the politics of the popular front but hate the art, they do not produce the states of feeling that will recall liberalism to itself, that will dissipate or fight the lethal rationalizing bureaucratic strains of liberalism. It is all rationalized and instrumental; rather than being organized around feelings or sentiments, they reproduce at a doctrinal, or dogma the worst tendencies of liberalism. The reason its paradoxical is that Trilling likes their social and political convictions because theyre largely liberal but he doesnt like the emotional life they produce. This is also anti-communist So, one of the reasons that Ellisons work gets canonized and lauded by this group is that his work is anti-ideological. In its first-person narration and commitment to exploring the individual psyche of the narrator, the novel refuses the idea that man can be apprehended in a formula. can be found in the paragraph of Battle Royal, the narrators statement That I am nobody but myself Of course, such an affirmation of individualism is profoundly ideological its just ideological in a way thats acceptable to the NYIs. Moreover, the novels formal difficulty its dense, symbolic structure insures that it cannot be reduced to a political slogan Assigned prologue because it offers a kind of blueprint for Ellisons aesthetics, his fusion of modernism with Af Am expressive forms. o Think back to ECM Ellison, is in some ways, what ECM wanted to be the person who could take African American cultural forms like jazz, spirituals, folklore and turn them into an art form that would be recognized and feted by white society. That fusion was central to Ellisons aesthetic and counter to Hughes, who insists on a purely black aesthetic

o Ellison also identifies his own appropriation of folklore with those of other modernists like Eliot and Joyce he identifies Ulysses as a trickster figure just like Brer rabbit. o This commitment to literary integration is mirrored in his broader political commitments: (163). He argues that it is not skin color that makes a Negro American but cultural heritage as shaped by the American experience, the social and political predicament, a sharing of that concord of sensibilities which the group expresses through historical circumstance and through which it has come to constitute a subdivision of the larger American culture . . . More important, perhaps, being a Negro American involves a willed affirmation of self as against all outside pressurs an identification with the group as extended through the individual self which rejects all possibilities of escape that do not involve a basic resuscitation of the original American ideals of social and political justice. And those white Negroes are Negroes too if they wish to be (177-8).

Prologue as an extended account of double-consciousness. Prologue as articulation of Ellisons artistic project. Situate in relation to Hughes and Johnson -Eliots epitaph -alienation -Dante allusion -Interest in Tradition (?) -image of illumination, of enlightenment yet its purely a kind of self-knowledge? Solipsism? Invisiblity, let me explain, gives one a slightly different sense of time, youre never quite on the beat. Sometimes youre ahead and sometimes behind. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time, you are aware of its nodes, those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead. And you slip into the breaks and look around. Thats what you hear vaguely in Louis music. . . . So under the spell of the reefer I discovered a new analytical way fo listening to music. The unheard sounds cam through, and each melodic line existed of itself, stood out clearly from all the rest, said its piece and waited patiently for the other voices to speak. That night I found myself hearing not only in time, bu tin space as well. I not only entered the music but descended, like Dante, into its depths. 8 -can find within art, the various contradictions and historical problems that produced contemporary society (?) you hear this music simply because music is heard and seldom seen, except by musicians. Could this compulsion to put invisibility down in black and white be thus an urge to make music of invisibility? 13-14

Booker T. Washington Washington believed that blacks in the south should cast down their buckets where they are and not emigrate, believing that the South offered blacks the best opportunities for economic advancement. Washington also portrayed Reconstruction in terms similar to southern apologists, claiming that it moved to fast and was motivated by a spiteful desire to place blacks in positions of political power over whites, and further claimed that blacks were not at that point capable of exercising their rights to suffrage. He thus urged that blacks should pursue economic opportunities instead of political agitation as the latter merely incurred a white backlash. Yet Washington did not perceive this as a surrender, but rather as a bargain. When he delivered the Atlanta Exposition address in 1895, he hoped that blacks would renounce their quest for social integration and political power in exchange for more resources devoted to black educational and economic opportunities. This was, then, a compromise, that would for the time being resolve the problem of the status of blacks in the south.