Cover image for The critical response to Ralph Ellison
The critical response to Ralph Ellison
Butler, Robert, 1942-
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xlv, 243 pages ; 25 cm.
Reading Level:
1500 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3555.L625 Z635 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Ralph Ellison's literary career began in 1937 with the publication of his review of Waters Edward Turpin's These Low Grounds. Over the next 15 years he published 10 short stories and 37 essays on literary, cultural, and political topics. But when Invisible Man was published in 1952, Ellison received immediate acclaim from a wide variety of critics, scholars, and novelists. While his novel emerged as a major work of African American literature, it also engaged the European literary tradition and influenced an entire generation of post-World War II writers. Ellison is now one of the most studied African American writers, and the posthumous publication of his second novel, Juneteenth, in 1999 has drawn even more attention to his contribution.

Through previously published reviews and essays, and original material, this book charts the response to Ellison's writings. While the bulk of the volume focuses on Invisible Man, the book also includes sections devoted to Ellison's short fiction and nonfiction, as well as posthumous estimates of his work. A chronology highlights the most important events in his life and career, while an introductory essay overviews the broad trends in Ellison scholarship. The volume concludes with a selected bibliography of primary and secondary works.

Author Notes

ROBERT J. BUTLER is Professor of English at Canisius College, where he is Director of College Honors. He has published numerous articles on African American authors, and his previous books include The Critical Response to Richard Wright (Greenwood, 1995).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In the decades since its publication, Invisible Man (1952) has gained a reputation so immense, has earned so solid a place in the canon of US literature, and has made its author so revered that one cannot imagine Ellison criticism as anything other than laudatory from the beginning. That said, reservations, resistance, and rancor have long accompanied accolades in this criticism, so students and scholars of Ellison's work need to gain appropriate perspective. Butler (Canisius College) supplies just such perspective, collecting (and assessing in his helpful introductory essay) a range of critical responses to Ellison/Invisible Man, beginning with the first important reviews by such critics as Irving Howe, Saul Bellow, Richard Chase, Alain Locke, and R.W.B. Lewis. Butler provides historical and authorial perspective in sections that cover contemporary readings of Invisible Man, evaluations of Ellison's short fiction and nonfiction, and useful posthumous assessments by Stanley Crouch, John F. Callahan, James F. Tuttleton, and Robert J. Butler. Abundantly demonstrating his thesis that the basic questions and concerns of Ellison criticism have been present from the first, Butler has provided a most important collection for scholars of African American literature as well as of Ellison. J. A. Zoller; Houghton College

Table of Contents

Cameron NorthouseRobert B. Stepto and Michael S. HarperOrville PrescottIrving HoweWilliam BarrettSaul BellowLloyd L. BrownRichard ChaseR. W. B. LewisAlain LockeFloyd R. HorowitzGeorge E. KentLeon ForrestHouston A. Baker, Jr.Robert J. ButlerJohn F. CallahanAnne Folwell StanfordJoseph F. TrimmerMary Ellen Doyle, S.C.N.Robert J. ButlerJoseph T. Skerrett, Jr.John M. ReillyKun Jong LeeStanley CrouchJohn F. CallahanJames W. TuttletonRobert J. Butler
Series Forewordp. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introductionp. xix
Chronologyp. xli
Overview: A Conversation with Ralph Ellison
Study and Experience: An Interview with Ralph Ellisonp. 3
Early Reviews of Invisible Man
A Review of Invisible Manp. 19
A Negro in Americap. 21
Black and Blue: A Negro Celinep. 23
Man Undergroundp. 27
The Deep Pitp. 31
A Novel Is a Novelp. 35
Eccentric's Pilgrimagep. 39
From Native Son to Invisible Man: A Review of the Literature of the Negro for 1952p. 41
Seminal Studies
Ralph Ellison's Modern Version of Brer Bear and Brer Rabbit in Invisible Manp. 45
Ralph Ellison and the Afro-American Folk and Cultural Traditionp. 51
Contemporary Readings of Invisible Man
Luminosity from the Lower Frequenciesp. 61
To Move Without Moving: An Analysis of Creativity and Commerce in Ralph Ellison's Trueblood Episodep. 73
Dante's Inferno and Ellison's Invisible Man: A Study in Literary Continuityp. 95
Frequencies of Eloquence: The Performance and Composition of Invisible Manp. 107
He Speaks for Whom? Inscription and Reinscription of Women in Invisible Man and The Salt Eatersp. 115
Ellison's Short Fiction
Ralph Ellison's "Flying Home"p. 129
In Need of Folk: The Alienated Protagonists of Ralph Ellison's Short Fictionp. 135
Ellison's "Black Eye": Transforming Pain into Visionp. 141
Ellison's Non-Fiction
The Wright Interpretation: Ralph Ellison and the Anxiety of Influencep. 149
The Testament of Ralph Ellisonp. 161
Ellison's Racial Variations on American Themesp. 173
Posthumous Assessments
The Oklahoma Kidp. 195
Frequencies of Memory: A Eulogy for Ralph Waldo Ellisonp. 199
The Achievement of Ralph Ellisonp. 211
Juneteenth: Ralph Ellison's National Narrativep. 217
Selected Bibliographyp. 227
Indexp. 239