The black experience in America has been lived and told millions of times over many generations, each telling expressing some similarity with another’s journey but also the unique characteristics of an individual life and a singular moment in time. The 1952 National Book Award-winning novel by Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, remains an astonishing account of a man’s attempts to navigate through the complex social and cultural waters of early 20th Century America, struggling all along to establish his personal identity while attempting to negotiate racial and intellectual identification.
On WorldCanvass: Iowa and Invisible Man, host Joan Kjaer and her guests will reflect on the life and work of Ralph Ellison and his place among other African-American writers of his era; the staging of Invisible Man, happening first at the UI; the benefits of integrating performance into the classroom as a teaching tool; and the history of African-Americans at the UI and in Iowa.
Participants will include playwright and writer Oren Jacoby; producer and director Christopher McElroen; English professors Lena Hill, Michael Hill and Horace Porter; rhetoric professor Bridget Tsemo; curator Kathleen Edwards; Hancher director Chuck Swanson; and Center for Teaching director Jean Florman.
Invisible Man is the centerpiece around which a number of interrelated events will take place in late November and early December, culminating in a first-ever live staging of the novel as a play on December 3. The multi-disciplinary collaborative project “Iowa and Invisible Man: Making Blackness Visible” will also include the panel discussion “Black Hawkeyes: Midcentury Memories of the University of Iowa”; a roundtable discussion on the literary past and theatrical future of Invisible Man; a presentation and public dialogue about the 21st Century implications of Ellison’s ideas about race and democracy at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids; a lecture on the work of UI alumna Elizabeth Catlett who created the striking Ralph Ellison sculpture in New York; a civic reflection event that will focus on perception and difference; and the December 2 WorldCanvass.
Please join us for this fascinating examination of Iowa and Invisible Man at 5 p.m. on December 2 in the Senate Chamber of Old Capitol Museum. WorldCanvass is free and open to the public.