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Reading Group

Nicholas Birns, The Marginal and the Universal: Ellison’s Invisible Man and Nguyen’s The Sympathizer

Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Whitridge Room for members only | $60 for the set of four sessions | registration required

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is one of the greatest twentieth-century novels; Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer is one of the most acclaimed of the twenty-first. These books, both of epic scope and astonishing innovation, have much in common; not only did the Asian American Nguyen model his reflective, ambivalent narrator on the African American Ellison’s, but both works consider (in Nguyen’s words) marginal experience as potentially universal. Both books examine the nature of being an outsider and an insider in America, and both operate with a mixture of philosophical reflections and a delight in borrowing from low genres such as the horror novel and the suspense tale. Both Ellison and Nguyen consider the promise and tragedy of Communism in the modern era, and both profoundly wrestle with the tension between personal autonomy and loyalty to a greater ideal.

Nicholas Birns is on the faculty at New York University, School of Professional Studies, where he teaches courses on Australian literature, Victorian fiction, post-1900 American and British fiction, literary theory, Shakespeare, and the history of literary genres and traditions.

This seminar takes place over four Wednesdays:
September 18
October 16
November 13
December 11
all at 11:00 AM in the Whitridge Room.

Registration is required. To register, log in and complete the form. Please click the Register button only once. The website may take a moment to process your registration and show the confirmation screen. For registration questions, or to register for single sessions, call the Events Office at 212.288.6900 x230.