Genre, Blues, and (Mis) Education in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

Shadi Neimneh, Fatima Muhaidat, Kifah Al-Omari, Nazmi Al-Shalabi


Despite the abundance of the critical analysis Ellison’s classic novel Invisible Man (1952) has received, critics, it seems to me, have often ignored the intersections between its genre(s) and thematic concerns. The present study is an attempt to fill this gap. In particular, I focus on the interrelationships between the novel’s genre as a Bildungsroman and its critique of “Negro” education. My assumption is that the novel’s genre as a novel of education gives way to a critique of “Negro” education. The life experiences and the blues that are supposed to educate the narrator according to the genre of the novel are constantly juxtaposed against the academic/professional education the narrator receives in high school and in a “Negro” segregated college. The overall achievement of Ellison is a critique of the accomodationist education of Southern blacks and their naïve faith in education as a means of achieving a better life for blacks or better race relations. If Ellison is not directly critical of “Negro” education, he is at least interrogating the efficacy of such an education. The picture of segregated “Negro” education Ellison draws is not a bright one. More positive is the representation of personal growth through internal change and black folk art, which counters the adverse forms of miseducation the novel’s main character encounters.

Key words: Genre; Blues; Jazz; (Mis)Education; Ralph Ellison; Invisible Man; Bildungsroman; American literature; African-American literature

Résumé Malgré l’abondance de l’analyse critique d’Ellison de son roman classique l’Homme Invisible (1952) a reçu, les critiques qui me semble souvent ignoré les intersections entre le genre (s) et les préoccupations thématiques. La présente étude est une tentative de combler cette lacune. En particulier, je me concentre sur les interrelations entre le genre du roman comme un Bildungsroman et sa critique de «nègre» de l’éducation. Mon hypothèse est que le genre du roman comme un roman de l’éducation laisse place à une critique de «nègre» de l’éducation. Les expériences de la vie et les bleus qui sont censés éduquer le narrateur en fonction du genre du roman sont constamment juxtaposée à l’enseignement scolaire / professionnelle, le narrateur reçoit à l’école secondaire et dans un «nègre» un collège distinct. La réalisation de l’ensemble Ellison est une critique de l’éducation accomodationist des Noirs du Sud et de leur foi naïve dans l’éducation comme un moyen de parvenir à une vie meilleure pour les noirs ou les relations interraciales de meilleurs. Si Ellison n’est pas directement critique de “nègre” l’éducation, il est au moins interroger l’efficacité d’une telle éducation. L’image de la ségrégation “nègre” l’éducation Ellison tire n’est pas brillant. Plus positive est la représentation de la croissance personnelle à travers le changement interne et l’art populaire noire, qui neutralise les formes négatives de mauvaise éducation du roman rencontres personnage principal.

Mots clés: Genre; Blues, Jazz, (Mis) l’éducation; Ralph Ellison; Homme invisible; Bildungsroman; La littérature américaine; Littérature afro-américaine


Genre; Blues; Jazz; (Mis)Education; Ralph Ellison; Invisible Man; Bildungsroman; American literature; African-American literature



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Copyright (c) 2012 Shadi Neimneh, Fatima Muhaidat, Kifah Al-Omari, Nazmi Al-Shalabi

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