Ralph Ellison: “I recognize no dichotomy between art and protest”


Then you consider your novel a purely literary work as opposed to one in the tradition of social protest.


Now, mind, I recognize no dichotomy between art and protest. Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground is, among other things, a protest against the limitations of nineteenth-century rationalism; Don Quixote, Man’s Fate, Oedipus Rex, The Trial—all these embody protest, even against the limitation of human life itself. If social protest is antithetical to art, what then shall we make of Goya, Dickens, and Twain?

From his 1955 Paris Review interview.


  1. ccllyyddee · May 17, 2012

    Can there be art without protest in some way? There is an artless protest.


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