Shadow and Act

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Shadow and Act
Author Ralph Ellison
Country America
Language English
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 352 pp

Shadow and Act is a collection of essays by Ralph Ellison, published in 1964. The writings encompass the two decades which began with Ellison's involvement with African American political activism and print media in Harlem, Ellison's emergence as a highly acclaimed writer with the publication of Invisible Man, and culminating with his 1964 challenge of Irving Howe's characterization of African American life, "Black Boys and Native Sons," with his now famous essay, "The World and the Jug." Ellison described it as exemplary of his "attempt to transform some of the themes, the problems, the enigmas, the contradictions of character and culture native to my predicament, into what Andre Malraux has described as ‘conscious thought.'" The title originated from his 1948 review of the film version of William Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust, entitled, "The Shadow and the Act," which expanded upon his critique in "Twentieth Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity" of the vicious and detrimental stereotypes rampant in mainstream American culture. In 1999, the Modern Library listed this book at 91st on its list of the 100 best nonfiction books of the 20th century.