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Most African and African American literature, art, and culture is centered around a type of performance characterized by improvisation and therefore essentially based on greater freedom than more heavily scripted performance traditions. In this way, acting becomes a means of gaining power over oppression by taking an art form that is traditionally based in strict role playing and turning it in to a form of individual expression necessary to creating an identity. Ralph Ellison employs this technique in his novel Invisible Man, using traditional facets of performance such as dialogue, scenery, props, and music, which once stripped of their foundation in social construction—meaning they no longer are used to create a socially acceptable mask but rather to create a new identity—generate an environment allowing for self-expression and thus self-creation. With this model, Ralph Ellison, is able to examine the universal human struggle of finding one’s identity while living one’s life in a world built upon restrictive ideologies and stereotypes. Furthermore, through his nameless narrator, Ellison reveals that the only way to liberate oneself from a certain role is by becoming “invisible;” in other words, one must annihilate the socially constructed self to allow room for the true complex self to be created, a feat Ellison’s narrator accomplishes through performance.


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18 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • Ellison's Invisible Man

  • Journal title
    • Papers & Publications

  • Volume
    • 1

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Keywords