Hope Draped in Black: Race, Melancholy, and the Agony of Progress
Hearing the Breaks and Cuts of History: Ellison, Morrison, and the Uses of Literary Jazz
This chapter looks at Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Toni Morrison’s Jazz, two novels that riff on the African American migration narrative, the movement of black bodies from the South to the North in the early part of the twentieth century. While this upward narrative promised opportunities and progress for black selves, these authors underscore how spatial and temporal movements are broken, fissured, and constantly being interrupted. Jazz, for Morrison and Ellison, becomes a literary trope that registers the breaks and cuts of history—the wounds and openings—as well as the disjointed quality of time (the present is never coherent...