Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison (Ralph Waldo Ellison), 1914–94, African-American author, b. Oklahoma City, Okla.; studied Tuskegee Inst. (now Tuskegee Univ.). Originally a trumpet player and aspiring composer, he moved (1936) to New York City, where he met Langston Hughes, who became his mentor, and became friends with Richard Wright, who radicalized his thinking. Ellison's earliest published writings were reviews and stories in the politically radical New Masses magazine. His literary reputation rests almost completely on one novel, Invisible Man (1952). A classic of American literature, it draws upon the author's experiences to detail the harrowing progress of a nameless young black man struggling to live in a hostile society. Ellison also published two collections of essays, Shadow and Act (1964) and Going to the Territory (1986). His collected essays were published in 1995, and a volume of stories appeared in 1996. For many years Ellison struggled with the writing of a second novel, sections of which appeared (1960–77) in magazines, but it was still uncompleted at his death. Condensing the sprawling mass of text and notes written over four decades, his literary executor assembled the novel Juneteenth, which was published in 1999.

See R. G. O'Meally, ed., Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings (2001); biographies by L. Jackson (2002) and A. Rampersad (2007); studies by J. Hersey, ed. (1974), R. G. O'Meally (1980), A. Nadel (1988), M. Busby (1991), E. Schor (1993), J. G. Watts (1995), H, Bytkerm, ed., (2000), H. Bloom, ed. (2003), K. W. Warren (2003), S. C. Tracy, ed. (2004), J. S. Wright (2006), and A. Bradley (2010).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Ralph Ellison
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1986
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1999
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
The Critical Response to Ralph Ellison
Robert J. Butler.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Visible Ellison: A Study of Ralph Ellison's Fiction
Edith Schor.
Greenwood Press, 1993
"Ambivalent Man": Ellison's Rejection of Communism
Wolfe, Jesse.
African American Review, Vol. 34, No. 4, Winter 2000
Plunging (outside of) History: Naming and Self-Possession in Invisible Man
Neighbors, Jim.
African American Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, Summer 2002
Heroism and the Black Intellectual: Ralph Ellison, Politics, and Afro-American Intellectual Life
Jerry Gafio Watts.
University of North Carolina Press, 1994
Modern Black American Fiction Writers
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Ralph Ellison: 1914-1994" begins on p. 47
History in Ralph Ellison's Juneteenth
Johnson, Loretta.
Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 32, No. 1, Spring 2004
Writing the Subject: Bildung and the African American Text
Gunilla Theander Kester.
Peter Lang, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The African American Double Subject: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man"
History and Memory in African-American Culture
Geneviève Fabre; Robert O'Meally.
Oxford University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 16 "On Burke and the Vernacular: Ralph Ellison's Boomerang of History"
The Apocalypse in African-American Fiction
Maxine Lavon Montgomery.
University Press of Florida, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man"
The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition
Bernard W. Bell.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1989
Librarian’s tip: "Ralph Waldo Ellison" begins on p. 193
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