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Ralph Ellison has long been admired as the author of one of the most important American novels of the twentieth century, Invisible Man. Yet he has also been dismissed by some critics as a writer who only published one major work of fiction and a black intellectual out of touch with his times. In this book, Timothy Parrish offers a fundamentally different assessment of Ellison's legacy, describing him as the most important American writer since William Faulkner and someone whose political and cultural achievements have not been fully recognized. Embracing jazz artist Wynton Marsalis's characterization of Ellison as the unacknowledged "political theorist" of the civil rights movement, Parrish argues that the defining event of Ellison's career was not Invisible Man but the 1954 Supreme Court decision that set his country on the road to racial integration. In Parrish's view, no other American intellectual, black or white, better grasped the cultural implications of the new era than Ellison did; no other major American writer has been so misunderstood. Drawing on Ellison's recently published "unfinished" novel, newly released archival materials, and unpublished correspondence, Parrish provides a sustained reconsideration of the writer's crucial friendships with Richard Wright, Robert Penn Warren, and C. Vann Woodward to show how his life was dedicated to creating an American society in which all could participate equally. By resituating Ellison's career in the historical context of its making, Parrish challenges the premises that distorted the writer's reception in his own lifetime to make the case for Ellison as the essential visionary of post-Civil War America.
From the moment that his debut book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959), won him the National Book Award, Philip Roth has been among the most influential and controversial writers of our age. Now the author of more than twenty novels, numerous stories, two memoirs, and two books of literary criticism, Roth has used his writing to continually reinvent himself and in doing so to remake the American literary landscape. This Companion provides the most comprehensive introduction to his works and thought in a collection of newly commissioned essays from distinguished scholars. Beginning with the urgency of Roth's early fiction and extending to the vitality of his most recent novels, these essays trace Roth's artistic engagement with questions about ethnic identity, postmodernism, Israel, the Holocaust, sexuality, and the human psyche itself. With its chronology and guide to further reading, this Companion will be essential for new and returning Roth readers, students and scholars.
This Companion examines the full range and vigor of the American novel. From the American exceptionalism of James Fenimore Cooper to the apocalyptic post-Americanism of Cormac McCarthy, these newly commissioned essays from leading scholars and critics chronicle the major aesthetic innovations that have shaped the American novel over the past two centuries. The essays evaluate the work, life, and legacy of influential American novelists including Melville, Twain, James, Wharton, Cather, Faulkner, Ellison, Pynchon, and Morrison, while situating them within the context of their literary predecessors and successors. The volume also highlights less familiar, though equally significant writers such as Theodore Dreiser and Djuna Barnes, providing a balanced and wide-ranging survey of use to students, teachers, and general readers of American literature.
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