Dena Fehrenbacher

Dena Fehrenbacher

Director and Senior Fellow


Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man


Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man is many things: a novel of ideas; an exploration of the nature of speech and action; a dark satire of American culture and its racial politics; and a profound meditation on the psychological and phenomenological experiences of race, bigotry and the Black experience in America. As the first novel by an African American writer to win the National Book Award, it is also a novel that is wary of the prestige of awards, that both affirms and is cautious of the institutionalization of American letters.

This reading group will work through Ellison’s long classic, considering the different contexts and philosophical questions each episode of the novel brings. But we will especially return to a question that Invisible man itself hesitates to answer: can fiction actually be a “raft of hope as we try to negotiate the snags and whirlpools that mark our nation’s vacillating course toward and away from the democratic ideal?”

Dates: Wednesdays on 6/9, 6/23, 7/7, 7/21, 8/4
Time: 5:00-6:30 PM
Location: 2134 Allston Way (with possibilities for some remote meetings if there is interest)

Reading schedule:

6/9: Introduction, Prologue, Chapter One
6/23: Chapters 2-7
7/7: Chapters 8-13
7/21: Chapters 14-20
8/4: Chapters 21-25, Epilogue

**This seminar is free and is open to all full-time university students and recent graduates. COVID restrictions on in-person gatherings will be followed**