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The Shadow and the ActBlack Intellectual Practice, Jazz Improvisation, and Philosophical Pragmatism$
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Walton M. Muyumba

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226554235

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226554259.001.0001

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Black Is, Black Ain't

Black Is, Black Ain't

Violence, Black Masculinity, and the Novel as Democratic Symbol

(p.49) Movement II Black Is, Black Ain't
The Shadow and the Act
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores Ralph Ellison's use of violence and the mixture of private ironies and public hopes, race, and masculinity in the short story “Flying Home.” This early story introduced themes of masculine violence and tragicomedy that Ellison subsequently improvised upon and polished in Invisible Man. “Flying Home” presents Ellison's theory of African American psychology. Invisible Man is framed by the protagonist's passage through acts of ritualized violence, beginning with pugilistic confrontation and ending with castration. It describes both the violence on the route to identity and on the route to literary efficacy. It then argues that Ellison eschewed traditional linearity in Juneteenth in favor of an exploded form that conveyed the contingency of narrative forms and a holistic literary attitude.

Keywords:   Ralph Ellison, masculine violence, race, masculinity, Flying Home, tragicomedy, Invisible Man, Juneteenth

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