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Improvising Self The Composition of Identity in "Moby-Dick" and "Invisible Man"

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Description: Ralph Ellison contends in Shadow and Act that "one can do nothing about choosing one's relatives[;] one can, as artist, choose one's 'ancestors'" ("The World and the Jug" 140). In his essays, Ellison claims literary kinship with Herman Melville. Despite the cultural and temporal separation of these works in the American canon, both male narrators in Moby-Dick and Invisible Man experience a common fight for identity. Both epic migration narratives are literary experiments in form. The aesthetic of improvisation functions as Ishmael's and Invisible Man's movements toward self-actualization, which is the core of my consideration of these texts. Whiteness and blackness loom throughout Moby-Dick and Invisible Man ; the politics of color is significant with respect to the protagonists' self-compositions. Melville and Ellison, through their narrators, offer social commentaries on ethnicity in nineteenth and twentieth century America, which inform our twenty-first century readings and color our American literary consciousness.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work