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Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research - Williamsburg

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$315
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Location:
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
96 Berry St
At N 8th St
Brooklyn, New York 11249
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Description
Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14
Teacher: Jude Webre

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this history lesson:

Resting on the fault line between art and politics, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man makes the powerful claim that black modernism and the African-American experience are central to the American narrative. For Ellison, the plight of his narrator, “both black and American,” was emblematic of major and  persisting paradoxes in American society. Yet the questions it raises about race and the constraints it places on American class politics and culture remain unresolved today. 

Indeed, some critics have read the novel as defeatist—a capitulation to respectability at the expense of solidarity. How did Ellison conceive of the cosmopolitan aspirations of modernism, with its promise of liberation, for black artists bedeviled by race? What were the cultural paradoxes he identified, and how do they still ring out in contemporary struggles—from the debates over symbolic protest in sports and entertainment to problems of literary representation and cultural practices of institutionalized racism?

In this course, we’ll grapple with the questions as we read Invisible Man in its entirety. As we read, we’ll consider key contexts, including Ellison’s intellectual and aesthetic development and the political climate of 1930s Harlem, against which the novel is set.

What was Ellison’s experience with the Communist Party and how might that experience have influenced his depiction of conflicts over race in American labor politics? How does the novel situate Harlem, then regarded as the capital of Black America, within the larger history of the Jim Crow South and the Great Migration? How should we understand Ellison’s self-conscious placement of his novel in the emerging canon of American literature that included Moby-Dick and Huckleberry Finn? And what is its relationship to the formal experiments of high modernism and jazz? 

In pursuit of these questions about aesthetic, historical, political, and intellectual contexts, the course will draw on Ellison’s dialogues with leading modernist figures such as T.S. Eliot and Kenneth Burke, as well as political and cultural contemporaries in Harlem, including Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, and Thelonious Monk. We’ll also consider the question of the black modernist subject through the prism of bebop—of which Ellison was an early, avid proponent—and the jazz writings of Adorno.

There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom. You will be notified of the exact location when you register for a class.

Instructors will contact students approximately one week prior to the first class with reading assignments and details about the course location.


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Refund Policy

Note: This provider has a temporary cancellation policy for COVID-19 related cancellations which is as follows:

We'll grant full course credit up to the start of the first class. After the first class we can offer 75% course credit; after the second 50%; and after the third 25%.

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Original cancellation policy (non-COVID-19):


Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (21)

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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