Approaches to Teaching Ellison’s Invisible Man

  • Editors: Susan Resneck Parr, Pancho Savery
  • Pages: xi & 154 pp.
  • Published: 1989
  • ISBN: 9780873525060 (Paperback)
Approaches to Teaching Ellison's Invisible Man Cover
Paperback ($19.75)

“Stimulating, accessible, and intelligently conceived, this volume . . . addresses a wide number of central pedagogical issues that anyone teaching the novel must face, while suggesting some interestingly contrastive contexts and methods by which such issues might be tackled. Altogether, the editors have produced a rich and readable volume.”

—Kimberly W. Benston, editor of Speaking for You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison

Teachers of Invisible Man differ about which aspect of Ralph Ellison’s novel deserves the most emphasis. According to Susan Resneck Parr, a coeditor of this volume, “some [teachers] argue that a thematic approach is the most appropriate because the text can and should speak for itself, [while] others are as fervent that the novel cannot be understood unless its readers are informed about the literary, biblical, psychological, musical, philosophical, classical, and historical motifs that permeate it.” Most often, how the novel is taught depends on the course in which it is included, the time allotted, and the sophistication of the students. The essays collected in Approaches to Teaching Ellison’s Invisible Man reflect this diversity of teaching methods and classroom settings.

This Approaches volume, like others in the MLA series, is divided into two parts. Part 1, “Materials,” surveys resources for classroom instruction, such as critical scholarship, and reviews background studies on a variety of topics, including American Communism, Freudian psychology, African American history, and existentialism. In part 2, “Approaches,” sixteen contributors suggest a variety of teaching strategies; consider the novel in the context of African American, American, and Western literary traditions, among others; and discuss Ellison’s debt to music and folk tradition.