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Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man : Invisibility, Race, and Homoeroticism from Frederick Douglass to E. Lynn Harris

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man : Invisibility, Race, and Homoeroticism from Frederick... Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: Invisibility, Race, and Homoeroticism from Frederick Douglass to E. Lynn Harris by Michael Hardin In 1952, when Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man was published, lynchings were not uncommon; by some measures, the last “offi cial” lynching, Emmett Till’s, was in 1955. Miscegenation was a crime in thirty states, including the entire South. Sodomy was a crime in every state. Given this environment, the unnamed protagonist of Invisible Man has many reasons for wanting to stay underground, to remain in- visible. Invisibility—for Ellison as well as for his precursors, Frederick Douglass, James Weldon Johnson, and Nella Larsen, and those who fol- low him, namely E. Lynn Harris—involves far more than racial iden- tity; invisibility is repeatedly linked to “passing” and miscegenation as well as to homoeroticism and homosexuality. In her discussion of John- son’s Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, Cheryl Clarke notes, “This tradition of covert, subtextual discourse on transgressive sexuality has persisted in black narratives of all kinds” (97). Thus, when we read these works, we should not be surprised to see homoerotic subtexts; repressed desires inevitably fi nd ways to express themselves, especially in the novel, where the scope can allow unacknowledged desire to escape http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man : Invisibility, Race, and Homoeroticism from Frederick Douglass to E. Lynn Harris

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 37 (1) – Jan 11, 2005

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: Invisibility, Race, and Homoeroticism from Frederick Douglass to E. Lynn Harris by Michael Hardin In 1952, when Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man was published, lynchings were not uncommon; by some measures, the last “offi cial” lynching, Emmett Till’s, was in 1955. Miscegenation was a crime in thirty states, including the entire South. Sodomy was a crime in every state. Given this environment, the unnamed protagonist of Invisible Man has many reasons for wanting to stay underground, to remain in- visible. Invisibility—for Ellison as well as for his precursors, Frederick Douglass, James Weldon Johnson, and Nella Larsen, and those who fol- low him, namely E. Lynn Harris—involves far more than racial iden- tity; invisibility is repeatedly linked to “passing” and miscegenation as well as to homoeroticism and homosexuality. In her discussion of John- son’s Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, Cheryl Clarke notes, “This tradition of covert, subtextual discourse on transgressive sexuality has persisted in black narratives of all kinds” (97). Thus, when we read these works, we should not be surprised to see homoerotic subtexts; repressed desires inevitably fi nd ways to express themselves, especially in the novel, where the scope can allow unacknowledged desire to escape

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Jan 11, 2005

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