Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Literature > 218. Ralph Ellison

218.  Ralph Ellison (1914-1994).  Working notes and outline for Invisible Man. Typed manuscript, 9 pages, 1952. RBML, Random House Papers

Invisible Man is one of the great novels of American literature and perhaps the most profound sociological exploration of African-American culture ever written in novel form. In this hand-corrected typescript submitted to Random House, Ellison discusses the concept of invisibility as applied to the novel as follows: "First a couple of underlying assumptions: "Invisibility", as our rather strange character comes in the end to conceive it, springs from two basic facts of American life: From the conditioning which often makes the white American interpret cultural, physical, or psychological differences as signs of racial inferiority" and "the great formlessness of Negro life wherein all values are in flux." In these working notes Ellison discusses the predicament of the Negro in American life, a person who must act logically in a predicament which is not logical. Life for the Negro in the world and word of Ellison is either tragic, absurd, or both.

Gift of Random House, Inc., 1970

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