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The Big Idea

Author Ralph Ellison, whose novel Invisible Man became an instant classic, provided important insights into an array of subjects, from the craft of fiction and homegrown American idioms of jazz and blues to the 21st-century political movements that still define our nation. But University of Colorado English Professor and New York Times best-selling author Adam Bradley thinks the visionary’s greatest contribution was his distillation of the vernacular process — something Bradley says was about “taking something that is inherited and making something beautiful.”

Take turntables and microphones. “Things we wouldn’t normally consider instruments have become the most dominant ‘instruments’ in music today,” Bradley continues. “Ellison helps us understand that.”

Tonight’s lecture explores Ellison’s contribution by examining his fiction — both his well-known novel and an unfinished work published posthumously. With the help of a CU jazz trio — they’ll be performing musical demonstrations of Ellison’s concepts — Bradley aims to illuminate contemporary race-relation concerns like the presidency of Barack Obama and the shifting nature of American identity. “Ralph Ellison: His Big Idea” begins at 7 p.m. at the Chautauqua Community House, 900 Baseline Road in Boulder. Admission is $7 to $10; for tickets, visit or call 303-440-7667.
Wed., Feb. 26, 7 p.m., 2014


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