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An important new collection of original essays that examine how Ellison’s landmark novel, Invisible Man (1952), addresses the social, cultural, political, economic, and racial contradictions of America. Commenting on the significance of Mark Twain’s writings, Ralph Ellison wrote that “a novel could be fashioned as a raft of hope, perception and entertainment that might help keep us afloat as we tried to negotiate the snags and whirlpools that mark our nation’s vacillating course toward and away from the democratic ideal.” Ellison believed it was the contradiction between America’s “noble ideals and the actualities of our conduct” that inspired the most profound literature—“the American novel at its best.” Drawing from the fields of literature, politics, law, and history, the contributors make visible the political and ethical terms of Invisible Man , while also illuminating Ellison’s understanding of democracy and art. Ellison hoped that his novel, by providing a tragicomic look at American ideals and mores, would make better citizens of his readers. The contributors also explain Ellison’s distinctive views on the political tasks and responsibilities of the novelist, an especially relevant topic as contemporary writers continue to confront the American incongruity between democratic faith and practice. Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope uniquely demonstrates why Invisible Man stands as a premier literary meditation on American democracy.

This superb collection enables readers of Invisible Man to appreciate the subtleties of its cultural and political commentary, moving them on to ponder how Ellison's work imbues current debates about eradicating discrimination and flagrant inequality. -- Journal of American Studies

Will make a leading contribution to what is rapidly becoming the field of Ralph Ellison Studies. It is unique in its steady devotion to revealing the political impact of Ellison’s text. This is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding Ellison’s political thought. -- Lawrence Jackson, author of Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius

Outstanding. . . . Provides an interdisciplinary perspective of the politics of the book that aimed to ‘get readers to recognize the humanity of those hidden by stereotypes.’ -- Lexington Herald-Leader

Ellison comes alive in these pages: the questions and concerns persisting over his lifetime, his connections to other authors and to events in the civil rights movement, his integrity, individuality, complexity, and seriousness of purpose—to say nothing of his sheer power as a writer—are all trenchantly and beautifully brought out in the essays. These essays contribute significantly to understanding what makes Invisible Man great and demonstrate that a great work of art has the capacity to renew itself across generations. -- Pamela K. Jensen, Kenyon College

“This volume brings together reflections on and analysis of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man . . . and of key importance to the Civil Rights movement.” -- Sage Race Relations

By carefully analyzing Ellison’s complex, finely nuanced political thinking, Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope enables us more clearly to see Ellison’s work, which has often been obscured by unfair criticisms and misconceptions dating back to the initial reviews of Invisible Man. This careful study of Ellison’s great novel is highly recommended for all serious students of American and African American literature. -- Robert Butler -- African American Review

Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope is a single-framework but multiple-focus reconsideration of a landmark book. Morel’s project—the politics of Invisible Man systematically revisited—is definitely worthy of the attention of the contemporary reader, or a multicultural America or anywhere else. -- Zoltan Abadi-Nagy -- Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Ralph Ellison, Invisible man, Politics and literature, African Americans in literature

Ralph Ellison and the Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to Invisible Man
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