Wharton. See Ruland and Spiller for comprehensive selections of nationalist writings
during the period, and Spencer for a good study of the nationalist campaign.
See Brownson, "American" and "Specimens"; Edward Tyrell Channing; Emerson, "The American Scholar" and "The Poet"; Humphreys; Parsons; and Walsh.
See Brownson, "Literature"; Mellen, Palfrey; Simms; Sparks; Tudor; and Wharton.
6. Ellison, in his 1964 review of LeRoi Jones Blues People, first highlights the elements
of burlesque or satire in the slaves' music and dance and criticizes the "social and cultural
snobbery" of white Americans that led to their failing to notice these elements: "The
effectiveness of Negro music and dance is first recorded in the journals and letters of
travelers but it is important to remember that they saw and understood only that which
they were prepared to accept. Thus a Negro dancing a courtly dance appeared comic
from the outside simply because the dancer was a slave. But to the Negro dancing
it . . . burlesque or satire might have been the point, which might have been difficult for a
white observer to even imagine" ( Shadow255-56).
Ellison's statement of white travelers' blindness to the satiric element, however, is not
correct and can be easily refuted by, among other things, Nicholas Cresswell's journal
entry written sometime between 1774 and 1777: "In [the black slaves] songs they
generally relate the usage they have received from their Masters or Mistresses in a very
satirical stile [sic] and manner" (qtd. In Gates, Signifying66).
African American scholars have found the strategy in most areas of African American
cultures and literature and, echoing Ellison consciously or unconsciously called it
"'differentiation' within repetition" ( Snead65), "productive misunderstanding" ( Ostendorf vii), or "repetition with a difference, a signifying black difference" ( Gates, "Criticism"3).
See Brownson, "Literature"; Mellen; Palfrey; Simms; Sparks; Tudor; and Wharton.
This is not to suggest that Ellison identifies the African American with the Native
American in every respect. He differentiates them clearly in their destinies ( Going299),
but identifies their symbolic roles in the white American imagination. His identification
seems to have derived partly from the African American-Native American "confusion" in
the African American community of Oklahoma City during his childhood ( Shadow158).
See also Going132-33 and Shadow156-57 for Ellison's understanding of African
American-Native American relationships.
Eliot understands that the repository of culture is the dominant élite class of a
society. Though he recognizes the role of the lower classes as producers of culture, Eliot
minimizes their role as conscious consumers, preservers, and transmitters of culture. His
élitist view of culture in a society can easily be expanded into a worldwide scene: While
other societies may produce cultures, these can be transmitted as significant cultures to
posterity only after being endorsed by the élitist European societies. See Soldo on Eliot's
élitism and its American background.
Baker Houston A., Jr. Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular
Theory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984.
_____. The Journey Back: Issues in Black Literature and Criticism. Chicago: U of
Chicago P, 1980.
Benston Kimberly W. "Ellison, Baraka, and the Faces of Tradition." Boundary 2 6
( 1978): 333-54.
_____. "Introduction: The Masks of Ralph Ellison." Benston, Speaking3-8.
_____. ed. Speaking for You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison. Washington: Howard UP, 1987.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: The Critical Response to Ralph Ellison.
Contributors: Robert J. Butler - Editor.
Publisher: Greenwood Press.
Place of publication: Westport, CT.
Publication year: 2000.
Page number: 189.
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