Trinity explores “Invisible Man” through Ellison Colloquium - Photogallery

-By Rachel Townsend ’16

Ellison Colloquium posterOne novel. Three different disciplinary perspectives. On April 14, Trinity hosted a colloquium on Ralph Ellison’s groundbreaking 1952 book Invisible Man. The storyfollows one African American man as he faces racial tensions, journeying through an era of hatred and confusion, a time of invisibility. By exploring the novel and its themes through history, literature, and music, the Ellison Colloquium offered students and faculty the chance to not only speak on these subjects, but to show their interdisciplinary power.

Hosted by Dr. Bob Rice, professor emeritus of history, the colloquium included presentations by Dr. David Brodnax Sr., professor of history, Dr. Mark Jones, professor of English, and Dr. Mark Peters, professor of music. Their presentations were followed by a Q & A session, where faculty and students were encouraged to probe the material further.

“Invisible Man is one of the most important novels in 20th century America for several reasons,” said Brodnax. “It explored the idea of identity at the crossroads of the 20th century, a time when Americans had just come out of WWII and the Depression and were also entering the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement. At the same time, questions of individual and national identity are timeless, and so the book is as well. Also, for a country that had yet to reckon its original sins of slavery and racism, the novel explores these issues. At the same time, because America still has not fully addressed these problems, and in fact because some people and institutions in America continue to make them worse, the book is timeless.”  

In between each presentation, there were interludes of dramatic readings and musical performances inspired by the novel. Students participated, including  Fred Walls ’16, who read a segment from the book’s Jim Trueblood episode, Dyvon Melling ’16, who performed a segment from the funeral oration, and Kylla Pate ’17, who read an original poem. Faculty also took part, with Jones and Dr. Aron Reppmann, professor of philosophy, performing the song “Come Back, Baby.” Brodnax, Jones, and Peters ended the event with a performance of “Black and Blue.”

The colloquium was sponsored by a generous grant from Trinity’s Faculty Development Office, Brodnax said.   View the photo gallery for a look at the event.