I am leaving Santa Fe this morning after spending a week studying Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in the St. John’s College Summer Classics program. Other courses offered during week 1 of the Summer Classics program studied Epictetus’s Discourses, Jane Austen’s Emma (my wife took this one), Melville’s short fiction, the biblical book of Exodus, the origins of film noir in the 1940s, the origins of calculus and lessons in leadership from the classics. Weeks 2 and 3 of the Summer Classics program offer a comparable wealth of riches from which to choose. See the listings accessible here. We’ll be back next year for more.
The classes are taught as seminars, St. John’s style, with two “tutors” (professors) kicking off the discussions by asking a text-based question and then contributing in small doses as the discussion continues. The discussions are to be confined to the text. I posted a note on Invisible Man here before leaving home for Santa Fe last week. I leave Santa Fe this morning even more in awe of the book than when I arrived. It is an inexhaustibly rich masterpiece, certainly the greatest postwar American novel and perhaps the great American novel, period.
During the week I wondered why I had never been exposed to the novel, why none of my friends had ever told me I have to read this book. I am adding this postscript to my note last week simply to say you have to read this book.