Document Type


Date of Award



School of Communication (SOC)

Degree Name

MA in English

First Advisor

Patricia R. Williams


This study tests the hypothesis that Ralph Ellison's novel, Invisible Man, employs eclectic techniques, and is therefore a complex genre. Accordingly, the assumptions which undergird this investigation embrace notions attendant to folklore, myth and comedy. Testing these assumptions, the study proceeds with the following objectives: (1) , ,to isolate and identify major characteristics found in three genre of the literary canon, and (2) to focus on Jacques Lacan's theory of psychoanalysis and its applicability to the narratology of the novel. Specifically, there are three distinct concepts which shape the study. These are (1) Ellison's use of the blues in his novel that extends far beyond musical parameters and exudes a philosophy of life that permeates community ritual and cultural boundaries; (2) Ellison's adaptation of black folk expression in literature by turning it into ritual and putting it at the service of myth, greater or other than itself; and (3) critics' general distortion ofEllison's use of comic characters and folklore in Invisible Man, rendering his [Ellison's] intent null and void. Testing the aforementioned assumptions, the primary findings of the study are (1) the novel contains an overwhelming and tremendous display of the oral tradition of folklore, which Ellison uses to exemplify the journey of the quester/apprentice from innocence to self-understanding; (2) an inescapable allusion to myth and ritual, which is characteristic of elements found in the bildungsroman that reflect the protagonist's discovery of the world through confrontation, and brings about an eventual understanding of life; and (3) an ironic and uncommon use of the comedic that succinctly portrays the bildungsroman protagonist's existence from a state of narcissism (or self-centeredness) to that of self-revelation (or maturity). As a result of these discoveries, the conclusion is that the novel may be classified a bildungsroman