Cover image for Ralph Ellison : emergence of genius
Ralph Ellison : emergence of genius
Jackson, Lawrence Patrick.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : John Wiley, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiii, 498 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3555.L625 Z74 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3555.L625 Z74 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS3555.L625 Z74 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS3555.L625 Z74 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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Praise for
Ralph Ellison
Emergence of Genius

"Dr. Lawrence Jackson's remarkable biography of Ralph Ellison is an essential contribution to the scholarship on one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. Painstakingly researched and exhaustive, this compelling portrait of Ellison clarifies his genius--and his intellectual era--for a new century."--Charles Johnson, National Book Award Winner and author of Middle Passage

"Lawrence Jackson's absorbing biography of Ralph Ellison makes a vital contribution to American literary history."--Ross Posnock, English Department, New York University, Author of Color and Culture: Black Writers and the Making of the Modern Intellectual

"Professor Lawrence Jackson's painstaking documentation of Ralph Ellison's early life and the beginning of his literary career provides a much needed resource for Ellison's readers and critics."--Horace Porter, author of Jazz Country: Ralph Ellison in America and Director of African Studies at the University of Iowa

"An eloquently written and exquisitely researched biography. There is nothing quite like it. Jackson breathes life into those hidden nooks and crannies of Ellison's youth that would later become cannon fodder for the grown Ellison's explorations. An utterly groundbreaking biography, the idea of Ralph Ellison will never be the same."--Jerry Watts, author of Heroism and the Black Intellectual: Ralph Ellison, Politics, and Afro-American Intellectual Life

Author Notes

LAWRENCE JACKSON is Assistant Professor of English at Howard University, where he specializes in African American literature and criticism. He was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship and was Resident Fellow at Harvard's W. E. B. Du Bois Institute while completing this book. Jackson holds a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Stanford University, and an M.A. in English from Ohio State University. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ralph Ellison (1913-1994) earned his place in the canon of African-American literature in a single act, the publication of Invisible Man (1952). His only completed novel, its controlled fury and modernist polish were thought by many to represent both the vanguard and the future of African-American literature. The book's uniqueness and its influence on subsequent generations have made the absence of an Ellison biography conspicuous; this first study by Jackson, an assistant professor of English at Howard University, ably answers the need. Its greatest limitation is that it ends in 1953, only halfway through Ellison's life. Hence Jackson doesn't discuss the highly anticipated second novel, the manuscript of which was destroyed in a fire in 1967, and which Ellison spent the rest of his life trying to complete. (The fragments were put together by Ellison's executor and published in 2001 as Juneteenth.) Material on Ellison's early years is hard to come by, and readers will find few of the anecdotes, letters or quotations that make up biographers' usual stock-in-trade. Still, these constraints do not seriously detract from the book's real merits. Jackson does a masterful job of re-creating the environments in which Ellison lived: childhood in Jim Crow Oklahoma, education at Tuskegee Institute, coming-of-age in the wake of the Harlem Renaissance. Ellison's intellectual and cultural development is faithfully traced, carefully researched and copiously annotated. Ellison will receive more comprehensive scrutiny in 2003, the projected publication date of acclaimed biographer Arnold Rampersad's authorized treatment. Till then, Jackson's study of the early Ellison does a fine job of shedding light on this enigmatic and revered figure in American letters. Agent, Jenny Bent. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Unlike his contemporary Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison was slow to make his grand entry into the literary world. But after working for six agonizing years on his best-known novel, Invisible Man, Ellison burst onto the scene to the thunderous acclaim of critics, winning the National Book Award in 1952. Jackson (English, Howard Univ.) traces the development of Ellison's life and work from his boyhood in Oklahoma City through his college days at Tuskegee Institute to his slow but steady rise among New York's intellectual elite in the 1940s and 1950s. Jackson's detailed and exhaustive study adroitly places Ellison in the cultural context that formed him intellectually, offering as well a splendid sketch of the benefits and shortcomings of New York literary life from the 1920s to the 1950s. Unfortunately, Jackson's biography ends in 1953 with the publication of Invisible Man, perpetuating the myth that for the next 40 years Ellison produced nothing of consequence. Jackson's neglect of the brilliant essays in Shadow and Act, Ellison's dazzling and funky writings on music, and the posthumous Juneteenth impoverishes this book. Still, since this is the first and only biography of Ellison now available, its broad contours will suffice until we get the definitive biography. Recommended for most collections. Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Geography Is Fate: 1913-1916
2 Renaissance Man: 1916-1925
3 The Horn of Plenty: 1925-1932
4 Down South: 1932-1933
5 The Trumpet and a Barrel of Crabs: 1933-1935
6 The Wasteland: 1935-
7 One-Winged Flying: 1936-1938
8 Is Politics an Expression of Love? 1938-1941
9 New Negro at Negro Quarterly: 1941-1942
10 Labor of Love: 1943-1944
11 Portrait of the Artist as a Young Critic: 1945 304
12 African American Thoreau: 1946
13 Absurdly, an Invisible Man: 1947
14 Progressive Isolation: 1948
15 Time Stands Still: 1949
16 Cold War and Inauthentic Blacks: 1950
17 The Black Kafka and the Fight against Reality: 1951
18 The Briar Patch: 1952-1953