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In this essay, I will explore Ralph Ellison’s 1952 classic novel, Invisible Man, as a text that has contemporary and relatable themes for a modern-day classroom of mostly urban youth. This essay is also a personal journey into how Ellison’s inventive approaches to form helped create a work that lends itself to contemporary reimagining. It asks the question, can Ellison’s interest in creating a living Afro-American literary tradition rooted in the lore of the ‘peasant’ or common folk have contemporary applications? How does Ellison’s belief that everyday folk expression has value hold up for today’s readers? I try to answer these questions through a combination of personal narrative, textual analysis, and, with the permission of my students, through samples of the work they created in class, in order to demonstrate the still relevant power of Ellison’s belief in first-person storytelling


© 2019 College English Association. Originally published in CEA Critic, available at doi:10.1353/cea.2019.0016



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