№11 2021

УДК / UDK: 821.111

Author: Stephen Rachman
About the author:

Stephen Rachman, PhD, Associate Professor, Director of the American Studies Program, Co-Director of the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition Laboratory, Michigan State University, 426 Auditorium Road, East Lansing, MI 48824, Michigan, USA.


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After an overview of the well-known aspects of Ralph Ellison’s interest in and connections to the works and literary ideas of the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, this paper reveals the hitherto unknown depths of Ellison’s research into and usage of the works and aesthetic theories of the Russian writer as he applied them to American and African American literary and social contexts. Making use of archival materials (including Ellison’s correspondence, draft of his unfinished novel Three Days Before the Shooting..., highlighting and marginalia in the books from his personal library, which includes numerous works by and about Dostoevsky), this reassessment addresses the role of the Russian classics, and in particular, of Dostoevsky, in Ellison’s intellectual formation, the role that Dostoevsky played in Ellison’s literary relationship with Richard Wright; the ways that Ellison’s interests in the blues, jazz and other folk and vernacular forms of African American culture were filtered through his analysis of nineteenth-century Russian culture; and the Dostoevskyan origins of a number of fictional scenarios that would find their way into Three Days Before the Shooting... The essay concludes with a discussion of the correspondence between Ellison and Joseph Frank, Dostoevsky’s biographer.

Keywords: Ralph Ellison, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Literary Pluralism, Invisible Man, Three Days Before the Shooting..., Richard Wright, Joseph Frank, Jazz, Charlie Parker.
For citation:

Rachman, Stephen. “Ellison and Dostoevsky: A Critical Reassessment of the Aesthetics and Politics.” Literature of the Americas, no. 11 (2021): 34–81. 


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