Shadow and Act Essay

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In the following essay excerpt, Busby focuses on the themes of autobiography and "the fullness and value of African American culture" in Shadow and Act.

When Ellison decided to collect his essays, interviews, and speeches written from 1942 to 1964, he turned to one of his favorite ancestors for the title, Shadow and Act. T. S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men," perhaps because of the emphasis on a complex dialectical process, provides the allusion:

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow



Ellison's title suggests several meanings. In the introduction Ellison refers to the title and emphasizes the significance of a writer's need to understand both his own personal past and history when he says that the "act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghostlike." Writing as act requires a constant interaction with the...

(read more from the Critical Essay #2 section)

This section contains 2,856 words
(approx. 8 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Shadow and Act Study Guide
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