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Chapter 11 - Alternating Currents: Electricity, Humanism, and Resistance

from Part II - Historical, Political, and Cultural Contexts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2022

Paul Devlin
Affiliation:
United States Merchant Marine Academy, New York
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Summary

Throughout his fiction and nonfiction, Ralph Ellison explores the coexisting potentials of electricity, playing rhetorically on its capacity to kill, to harm, or to heal. He frames this ambivalence as an opportunity for reflection and for action, urging his readers to realize that the potentials of technology reside in human decisions. This chapter claims that Ellison’s rich electrical imagery can expand understandings of his aesthetic engagement with the broader themes of technology and humanism. Drawing on his published and unpublished works—including an unpublished alternative to the hospital scene in Invisible Man—this chapter argues that Ellison’s narratives can shed light on persisting debates about the relationship between human life and technological systems.

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Ralph Ellison in Context , pp. 127 - 136
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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