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Pleasure, Work, Challenge

invisible.jpgkarenina.jpg

I’ve been brainstorming a quiz that will be given during the first 5 minutes in tomorrow’s class. It will cover the first half of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. In the past reading checks have fill-in, true/false and matching questions. Quizzes are to ensure students have scrupulously completed the readings and showed up for class. This time we decide to have the students identify ideas and/or phrases that are relevant to the reading from a pool. So here is what I have come up over coffee this morning:

nose /1369 / running track / isolation / freedom / extinction / equality / eyes hibernation / jazz club / San Francisco / prize-fighter / president / mirror /
light bulbs / phantom / 1942 / blindfold / Harlem / Thoreau / blood / knife

The landmark novel that has changed the shape of American literature (and shocked the public) has one of my favorite and unforgettable opening, full of symbols, innuendos and allusions:

“I am an invisible man. N, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids–and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.”

The rest of the book revolves around this opening passage. Ellison uses numerous metaphors, images, and allusions to enhance the emotional and intellectual impact of his novel. For instance, Ellison invokes the colors of the American flag with red of sloe gin, the Optic White of Liberty Paints factory, and the blue of “What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue?” by Louis Armstrong. Ellison also uses the language of music throughout the novel to characterize the deeper meaning of a scene.

Besides the commitment to the class, I’m reading the book for pleasure as well, and it constitutes to the Chunkster Reading Challenge, which requires reading of four books that are over 450 pages. My other ongoing read, Anna Karenina crosses over with Russian Reading Challenge. It’s required reading for the Russian Novels class that I TA.

11 Responses

  1. You are turning out to be a creative instructor! Hope your kiddies are doing their homework.

    Congrats on your progress on your personal reading.

  2. I have yet to read The Invisible Man, but I’ve read anthologized chunks of it over the years. I’ve never really had much interest in reading it, but that opening passage really grabbed me. I think I just changed my mind. I know they have it downstairs here in the college library, so maybe it will be my next read.

  3. I just pulled out Anna K last night as well. She’s sitting next to my bed. I think I am going to read Les Miserables first, though. I should really join the Chunkster Challenge, since I have a few long books already in the queue. I really need to read The Invisible Man, too. It’s on my amazon wishlist, but I bet I could mooch a copy!

  4. Do you ever get feedback from the students you TA about what they think of the novels they read? I mean really what they think not what they need to think or know to pass the class, etc.

  5. That sounds interesting. I’ll put that one on my reading list. I haven’t read any book quite like that, and the symbolism intrigues me.

  6. I read “Anna Karenina” in high school and enjoyed it; I think you will, too.

  7. I read Anna Karenina just over two years ago and really liked it. Then I happened onto your blog; the Russian reading jag has continued apace.

  8. […] Ive been brainstorming a quiz that will be given during the first 5 minutes in tomorrows class. It will cover the first half of Ralph Ellisons Invisible Man. In the past reading checks have fill-in, true/false and matching questions. Quizzes are to ensure students have scrupulously completed the readings and showed up for class. This time we decide to have the students identify ideas and/or phrases that are relevant to the reading from a pool. So here is what I have come up over coffee th source: Pleasure, Work, Challenge […]

  9. Isabel:
    for the first time I’ve got a few books open at the same time. I’m reading a chapter or two of Anna Karenina a day, moving along with Invisible Man, and starting Hotel Du Lac. My friend who is visiting introduced me to some books by Patrick Gale, who will be featured in the Hong Kong literary festival next month. I’m happy to be downing in books! 🙂

    Andi:
    I don’t know how I can get by high school and college without reading Invisible Man. Some parts of it are more interesting than others. I like the eloquence of the prose.

  10. Danielle:
    I would love to read along Anna Karenina with you. We should work out a schedule. I’m just leafing through the first few chapters. Les Miserables sound like a good idea as well. 🙂

    Heather T:
    That’s something I encourage in the discussion section. They hear enough about the criticism and theory in lectures, so I don’t want to say more of what should know as if I’m passing down the scroll from Mount Sinai! Discussion is meant to be a forum, an exchange of ideas. I’m interested to read their papers, which should be fine arguments of their thoughts. 🙂

  11. Jef:
    You’ll be intrigued I’m sure! 🙂

    Greg:
    Have you read Invisible Man?

    Greg S:
    Russian literature reigns! 🙂

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