Shadow Ballers| Pitchin' Men [ Ralph Ellison & Narratives of the Black Male Athlete ] MELUS 2014/ March 6-9, OKC
Through its multiple vamps, riffs, and leitmotifs Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man delivers a vision of Black masculinity that includes a particular exploration of Black male athleticism. Addressing notions of physicality and competitive spirit, Ellison speaks back to a significant legacy of performance that had become evident to white America through the sporting exploits of African American men by the novel's publication in 1952. Moments such as the battle royal and the arena speech bring the novel's nameless narrator into conversation with a list of prominent Black athletes including Jack Johnson, Jessie Owens, Joe Louis, and Jackie Robinson.
A round table discussion at the 2014 MELUS Convention/Ralph Ellison Centennial Celebration in Oklahoma City will examine ways that Ellison articulates possibilities for Black male voices deployed in twentieth-century sports autobiographies, including those produced by Curt Flood, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and Muhammad Ali.
Recognizing Black male athletes as speaking an American vernacular, we recall that Ellison finds vernacular a "dynamic process [where]…refined styles from the past are continually merged with the play-it-by-eye-and-by-ear improvisations which we invent in our efforts to control our environment and entertain ourselves." In addition to Invisible Man, participants may explore Ellison's narrative play with respect to essays from Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory.
Send short 500-750 word abstracts for consideration by January 15, 2014