Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison * Salon FULL*

Course NameLocationDurationDateTime
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison SALON FULL Kentish TownSeven weeks16.5- 11.7.18Wednesday evenings


“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.”

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man


I consider this to be one of the greatest works of American Literature. The unnamed protagonist’s search for identity in a world that will not see him gives us as readers an opportunity to try to understand the psychological devastation of racism in its subtle as well as its violent forms and to consider how each of us participates in the fate of all humanity. Ellison weaves in themes and images from Virgil, Dante, Emerson, and TS Eliot while also using the structure and transcendence of Jazz to create a work that haunts and stirs to the core of our experience.


Salon Details

  • Facilitated by Toby Brothers
  •  Wednesday evenings 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm   
  • Seven-week study starting 16th May; finishing 11 July   *no meetings May 23rd or June 27th
  • Recommended edition: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Penguin Modern Classics (Aug. 2001); ISBN-13: 978-0141184425
  •  £ 135 for seven-week study includes background materials and opening notes

TO REGISTER for the study, please use one of the secure Paypal payment buttons below to pay £135. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration.

Apologies– this Salon is now full– please contact us to register your interest for a future Invisible Man study.

If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.


From Saul Bellow’s essay:

“Man Underground”

Review of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

by Saul Bellow

published in Commentary (June 1952)


“It is commonly felt that there is no strength to match the strength of

those powers which attack and cripple modern mankind. And this feeling

is, for the reader of modern fiction, all too often confirmed when he

approaches a new book. He is prepared, skeptically, to find what he

has found before, namely, that family and class, university, fashion,

the giants of publicity and manufacture, have had a larger share in

the creation of someone called a writer than truth or imagination that

Bendix and Studebaker and the nylon division of Du Pont, and the

University of Chicago, or Columbia or Harvard or Kenyon College, have

once more proved mightier than the single soul of an individual; to

find that one more lightly manned position has been taken. But what a

great thing it is when a brilliant individual victory occurs, like Mr.

Ellison’s, proving that a truly heroic quality can exist among our

contemporaries. People too thoroughly determined and our institutions

by their size and force too thoroughly determine can’t approach this

quality. That can only be done by those who resist the heavy

influences and make their own synthesis out of the vast mass of

phenomena, the seething, swarming body of appearances, facts, and

details. From this harassment and threatened dissolution by details, a

writer tries to rescue what is important. Even when he is most bitter,

he makes by his tone a declaration of values and he says, in effect:

There is something nevertheless that a man may hope to be. This tone,

in the best pages of Invisible Man, those pages, for instance, in

which an incestuous Negro farmer tells his tale to a white New England

philanthropist, comes through very powerfully; it is tragi-comic,

poetic, the tone of the very strongest sort of creative intelligence.

In a time of specialized intelligences, modern imaginative writers

make the effort to maintain themselves as unspecialists, and their

quest is for a true middle-of-consciousness for everyone. What

language is it that we can all speak, and what is it that we can all

recognize, burn at, weep over, what is the stature we can without

exaggeration claim for ourselves; what is the main address of



“I was keenly aware, as I read this book, of a very significant kind of

independence in the writing. For there is a way for Negro novelists to

go at their problems, just as there are Jewish or Italian ways. Mr.

Ellison has not adopted a minority tone. If he had done so, he would

have failed to establish a true middle-of-consciousness for everyone.”