A critical exploration of the craft of Ralph Ellison's fiction, from Invisible Man to the second novel, by Adam Bradley. (Yale University Press, 2010)
Ralph Ellison-In-Progress is the first critical study to interpret Ellison's literary career as a whole, surveying the grand geography of his unfinished novel and re-imaging the more familiar, but often misunderstood, territory of Invisible Man. Drawing from both novels' rich textual archives—the handwritten journals, typescripts, computer drafts, and notes that comprise his fiction—I argue that Ellison becomes most visible to us when we see him through the process of his composition.
Structured around a series of turning points in Ellison's life as an author, Ralph Ellison-in-Progress takes a fresh look at particular years that mark radical developments in Ellison's life, the life of his fiction, and the life of the nation. Drawing upon both the manuscripts of Invisible Man and those of the second novel, it shows how the means of these novels composition are at times as revelatory as the fictions themselves. Considering the two novels together, one an American classic, one defiantly unfinished, Ellison's value to our present moment becomes inescapable and unforgettable.
Ralph Ellison-in-Progress is the product of the years I've spent sifting through the more than 47,000 items in the Ralph Ellison Archive at the Library of Congress and reading the multiple drafts of Ellison's fiction.