Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Humanities 110—Multidirectional Memories of Du Bois and Ellison

Marat Grinberg Associate Professor of Russian and Humanities

APRIL 27, 2020

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This lecture is part of Reed College's Humanities 110 curriculum. It was presented by Marat Grinberg, associate professor of Russian and humanities, on April 27, 2020.

Published in 1952, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man should be studied in the crucial post–World War II and post-Holocaust context. To elucidate this cultural moment, the lecture discusses Ellison’s novel in conjunction with W. E. B. Du Bois’s essay on his visit to Warsaw in 1948 and the transformative impact coming in contact with the Holocaust and its memorialization had on Du Bois’s understanding of racism. Both Du Bois and Ellison provide examples of the workings of “multi-directional memory” (Michael Rothberg) and how juxtaposing various histories of persecution and catastrophes, in this case racism and anti-Semitism, helps us to understand them on a deeper comparative level without losing sight of the singularity and magnitude of each event.