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Black and Ashamed: Deconstructing Race in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

Chapter in book
Authors Zlatan Filipovic
Published in Shame and Modern Writing / edited by Barry Sheils and Julie Walsh
Pages 112-132
ISBN 978-1-138-06727-1
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication New York ; London
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 112-132
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.4324/97813151587...
Keywords sociology, W. E. B. Du Bois
Subject categories Languages and Literature

Abstract

In The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois writes of “a peculiar sensation” in the affective life of the oppressed that pits the subject against itself: “It is a peculiar sensation, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”1 The constitution of subjectivity taken hostage by the white gaze that Du Bois describes is further exposed as a structure of abiding ambiguity that reveals the Ego’s inability to assume its contradictions. “One ever feels his two-ness,” he continues, “an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”2 This divided black soul, for Du Bois, constitutes both the living center of the American narrative and its unlivable margins at the same time. It is eminently American in the very possibility of its resistance to the objective racial myths within which it is determined, but it is also America’s constitutive outside, the excluded threshold of its identity. © 2018 Taylor & Francis.

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