Chapter

Ralph Ellison and the Grain of Internationalism

Brent Hayes Edwards

in Globalizing American Studies

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780226185064
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226185088 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226185088.003.0004
Ralph Ellison and the Grain of Internationalism

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Thinking about Ralph Ellison as an internationalist requires tinkering with some of most closely guarded assumptions about his work. “America” is what a linguist would call an unmarked term: whereas most of the other key notions invoked in the Ellison corpus are fingered and pressed into rich, changing threads of significance, “America” sometimes seems to remain untroubled, conjured unquestioningly as the self-evident boundary of inquiry. There is a surprising wealth of material on internationalism in Ellison's extensive drafts for the editorials in the Negro Quarterly between 1942 and 1944. Internationalism is not a discourse. The word “grain” indicates a temporized stratification, a mode of formal organization that one might term institutional, predicated on a certain founding interpretive violence, and even a quality of consciousness. The point is that the politics of radical internationalism remains a problem in Ellison's fictional architecture—a “grain” both in the sense of a structuring feature and in the sense of a concern continually being put to the test.

Keywords: Ralph Ellison; internationalism; grain; fictional architecture; inquiry

Chapter.  9804 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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