Event Title

Discourse as a Solution to Problems of Self-Definition and Self-Expression in Invisible Man

Location

CSU 202

Start Date

21-4-2014 10:00 AM

End Date

21-4-2014 11:00 AM

Student's Major

English

Student's College

Arts and Humanities

Mentor's Name

Donna Casella

Mentor's Email Address

donna.casella@mnsu.edu

Mentor's Department

English

Mentor's College

Arts and Humanities

Description

Twentieth-century African-American author Ralph Ellison identifies a "problem of language," words causing "segregation" to take place, a "struggle over the nature of reality." Structures outside some characters' control cause an aesthetic problem of self-definition and self-expression in the texts by employing these structures as intermediaries through which to understand the characters. I provide a reading of Ellison's novel Invisible Man that examines the points at which the narrator, in the act of retelling, comes to understand history discursively. I assess how the discourse of history qualifies this problem of self-definition and self-expression. By interacting with the discourse of history, the narrator not only self-defines and self-expresses on his own terms via narrative, but prioritizes the study of that "self" in relation to the historical discourse. Because Invisible Man's narrator is able to define and express himself in relation to the larger discourse of history and not exclusively in terms of race, the implications of my findings are not merely aesthetic, but facilitate an alternate reading of the novel. The main character's ability to define and express himself in terms of history prompts a critical consideration of the novel based upon the narrative constructions of identity, constructions defined beyond the taxonomies of racial identity.

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Apr 21st, 10:00 AM Apr 21st, 11:00 AM

Discourse as a Solution to Problems of Self-Definition and Self-Expression in Invisible Man

CSU 202

Twentieth-century African-American author Ralph Ellison identifies a "problem of language," words causing "segregation" to take place, a "struggle over the nature of reality." Structures outside some characters' control cause an aesthetic problem of self-definition and self-expression in the texts by employing these structures as intermediaries through which to understand the characters. I provide a reading of Ellison's novel Invisible Man that examines the points at which the narrator, in the act of retelling, comes to understand history discursively. I assess how the discourse of history qualifies this problem of self-definition and self-expression. By interacting with the discourse of history, the narrator not only self-defines and self-expresses on his own terms via narrative, but prioritizes the study of that "self" in relation to the historical discourse. Because Invisible Man's narrator is able to define and express himself in relation to the larger discourse of history and not exclusively in terms of race, the implications of my findings are not merely aesthetic, but facilitate an alternate reading of the novel. The main character's ability to define and express himself in terms of history prompts a critical consideration of the novel based upon the narrative constructions of identity, constructions defined beyond the taxonomies of racial identity.

Recommended Citation

Larson, Benly. "Discourse as a Solution to Problems of Self-Definition and Self-Expression in Invisible Man." Undergraduate Research Symposium, Mankato, MN, April 21, 2014.
http://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/urs/2014/oral_session_02/2