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Fantasies of the New ClassIdeologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II American Fiction$
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Stephen Schryer

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231157575

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231157575.001.0001

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“Life Upon the Horns of the White Man’s Dilemma”

“Life Upon the Horns of the White Man’s Dilemma”

Ralph Ellison, Gunnar Myrdal, and the Project of National Therapy

(p.55) 2 “Life Upon the Horns of the White Man’s Dilemma”
Fantasies of the New Class

Stephen Schryer

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines Ralph Ellison's critique of Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma. Ellison rejected Myrdal's claim that black culture and psychology can be viewed as pathological by-products of white racism, and criticized the impact of sociology on naturalistic representations of race, questioning if “American Negroes are simply the creation of white men, or have they at least helped to create themselves out of what they found around them?” Kenneth Warren praised Ellison's argument saying that he “was seeking a dynamic, even dialectical account of the Negro that would acknowledge the history of racial repression but not characterize black people as merely prisoners of a repressive environment.” Andrew Hoberek similarly highlights the extent to which Ellison echoed a version of postwar sociology concerned with issues of class rather than with issues of race.

Keywords:   Ralph Ellison, Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma, Kenneth Warren, Andrew Hoberek

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