"These Strains of Continuity": The Influence of Invisible Man, Sixty Years Later -- DUE JANUARY 18

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New Jersey College English Association
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In 1953, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man won the National Book Award for Fiction—the first text in African American Literature to do so. In the six decades since, readers have consistently ranked it high in myriad polls, while critics have rendered it the premier African American novel. Over the past few years, debates about this genre of literature have centered primarily on Ellison's masterpiece.

This panel returns to Invisible Man on the sixtieth anniversary of the coveted award, to examine its influence on the literature created since its publication. Clearly Ellison's novel has influenced a range of writers, from Philip Roth to contemporary authors such as Chang-Rae Lee and Colson Whitehead. How have writers since Ellison evoked him in their works? How do they revise upon him? Since Ellison is often situated in a male tradition, how have women writers responded? How can we reread Invisible Man in the age of Obama? How can we trace his Diasporic influence, such as on Caribbean and/or African writers?

These are just some of the questions to consider as we revisit Ellison with this panel. In 1973, he articulated the need for critics to assess the "strains of continuity" between writers regardless of backgrounds and literary traditions; this panel is the response to his call.