By Bridger Ehli /// Staff Writer
On Feb. 27 and 28, Lewis & Clark will host the Ralph Ellison Centennial Symposium. Numerous scholars from universities across the country will travel to Portland to discuss the art, life and influence of novelist Ralph Waldo Ellison, best known for his novel, “Invisible Man,” which was published in 1952. The event will consist of a series of keynote presentations as well as roundtable discussions focused on “Invisible Man” as well as Ellison’s other works including the posthumously-published manuscript of what would have been his second novel, “Three Days Before the Shooting.”
“Invisible Man” stands as one of the most important novels in all of American Literature. Written from the perspective of a young African-American man who travels from the Deep South to the streets of Harlem in search of identity, the surrealistic novel was awarded the National Book Award in 1953 and was named the nineteenth best English-language novel of the 20th century by Modern Library.
A New York Times review of the novel stated of Ellison, “He is not interested in literal, realistic truth, but in an emotional, atmospheric truth which he drives home with violence, writing about grotesquely violent situations. With gruesome power he has given ‘Invisible Man’ the frenzied tension of a nightmare.”
The Symposium is billed as a celebration of 100 years since Ellison’s birth, although this is not entirely accurate as he was born in 1913. John F. Callahan, the Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities at LC, organized the event. Callahan, who has taught at the College for almost fifty years, was a close friend of Ellison’s and now serves as the literary executor of his estate. He has been responsible for numerous posthumous publications of Ellison’s work including the novel “Juneteenth,”which was extracted from the manuscript that would subsequently be published as “Three Days Before the Shooting.” Students from LC that are currently enrolled Callahan’s class on Ellison, which focuses primarily upon his unpublished personal letters, will field questions to scholars at a roundtable discussion on Saturday.
Some of the nation’s most prominent Ellison scholars will participate in the event, representing institutions including Johns Hopkins University and Yale University. Of those scheduled to present is Adam Bradley, who graduated from LC in 1996 and went on to earn his Ph.D at Harvard University. Bradley is now an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder and has published numerous critical works on Ellison, as well as Hip-Hop lyrics, including his books, “Ralph Ellison-In-Progress”and “The Anthology of Rap.”
The Symposium will take place in the Gregg Pavilion and is set to begin at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 27 and run till 4:00 p.m. the following day. A schedule of presentations and discussions has been posted on the LC website. Both students and members of the general public are encouraged to attend the free event. Organizers have requested that those who plan to attend RSVP at the Symposium’s website.