The History of Literature #324 – Ralph Ellison | Blocked! (Top 10 Cases of Writer’s Block)

324 Ralph Ellison | Blocked! (Top 10 Cases of Writer’s Block)

Ralph Waldo Ellison (1913-1994) began life as an infant in Oklahoma City and ended it as one of the most successful and celebrated novelists in the world. And this reputation was largely due to one book, the masterpiece Invisible Man (1952), which transcended the limitations that the American reading public placed on African American writers to become what Time magazine later called “the quintessential American picaresque of the twentieth century.” Admired by critics and bought in large numbers by readers around the world, Invisible Man seemed to herald the beginning of a long and promising writing career for Ellison, but unfortunately, that was not to be: for the next forty years, he struggled to publish more fiction, chasing a perfection he could never manage to achieve.

In this episode, Jacke takes a look at the life of Ralph Waldo Ellison, then is joined by Mike Palindrome, the president of the Literature Supporters Club, to discuss Ellison’s plight and the top 10 cases of writers block.

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History of Literature #74 – Great First Chapters (with Vu Tran)


It’s a new year! A time for fresh beginnings! And on the History of Literature Podcast, it’s a time to celebrate beginnings. Vu Tran, author of the novel Dragonfish and a professor of creative writing at the University of Chicago, joins us to discuss ten great first chapters – how they work, how they affect the reader, and how they fulfill their author’s intentions.


Works Discussed:

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee

Show Notes: 

Contact the host at or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

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On Twitter, you can follow Jacke Wilson at his handle @WriterJacke. You can also follow Mike and the Literature Supporters Club (and receive daily book recommendations) by looking for @literature SC.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).