Welcome to 'Voices Across Borders'

Voices Across Borders

The Blog of the Race and Resistance Research Network at TORCH

Posted by: Tessa Roynon                                                                                             
Date: 24 October 2014


Welcome to Voices Across Borders. This is the new blog of the Oxford University Research Network, Race and Resistance Across Borders in the Long Twentieth Century.  The Network is based at TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities), and holds weekly seminars on Fridays during term time, as well as hosting and organizing a range of other activities.

One of the aims of this blog is to enable the many academics and students at Oxford whose work involves questions of race and resistance – in a range of disciplines and interdisciplines – to make their voices heard.  We are keen to increase the visibility and the interconnectedness of the scholarship in these fields across the University, and to decrease the sense of intellectual and political isolation that many of us have (unnecessarily) felt or continue to feel. So, if you would like to post a blog entry here about your research, about  a course that you are studying or teaching, or about a University event that you’ve attended; if you’d like to review any films, literature, music, etc, or to share your opinion of a ‘current event’, please do get in touch. The details are below.

A highlight of my own first week of term was the opportunity to talk about my work on Ralph Ellison at the American Literature Research Seminar. My presentation was entitled ‘Ralph Ellison, “Western Culture”, and Magazines in the 1940s’. Examining the intellectual and cultural formation of Ellison during that decade, I discussed the relationship between his developing, ambivalent views of what he calls ‘Western culture’ and his engagement with a huge spectrum of magazines.  

During the years in which he was ‘preparing’ to write and then frantically revising his 1952 novel,  Invisible Man, Ellison read widely in  Communist publications; ‘the Negro press’; liberal intellectual ‘review’ type magazines; and in  mainstream glossies such as Life, Fortune, Look and Harper’s Bazaar.  I argued that Ellison’s changing relationship with magazines over the 1940s is indicative of his struggle to become a novelist as opposed to a magazine journalist. That same changing relationship expresses his imperative to articulate in his own voice, in his own novel, both his own identity and a viable black subjectivity. With a particular focus on what I believe to be the crucial influence on Invisible Man of the Life magazine ‘History of Western Culture’ series (published in 1947-48 and preserved in Ellison’s archive), I suggested that the tension between the magazine form and the novel form is key to Ellison’s unresolved dilemma in these years about collective versus individual agency.

It was wonderful to discuss this subject with the many DPhil students in the audience, as well as with colleagues in the English faculty. I went home eager to get back into the Library of Congress archive. So, roll on March, when I shall do just that.

Voices Across Borders is always looking for new Race and Resistance Research network members to contribute to this blog. If you would like to write a piece, or if you have a response to a blog entry you have read here, please e-mail the Voices Across Borders editors, Tessa Roynon (tessa.roynon@ell.ox.ac.uk) or Tamara Moellenberg (tamara.moellenberg@ell.ox.ac.uk).

The viewpoints expressed in Voices Across Borders are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Oxford.


Race and Resistance across Borders in the Long Twentieth Century

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