'Moments of Blackness Between Cinematic Frames': Movie Code in Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth
"The paper sets out to explore various modes, in which cinematic code operates in the novel Juneteenth authored by the renowned (African) American writer Ralph Ellison and published posthumously in 1999. The text edited by John Callahan, his literary executor, is a section of the manuscripts of Ellison’s unfinished second “novel-in-progress”. The action in Juneteenth revolves around its core idea expressed through the plot lines, characters, imagery, as well as narrative strategies, and consisting in the writer’s belief that the fates of Blacks and whites in the USA are inextricably interwoven (it is their inseparability that accounts for America’s cultural uniqueness). The novel’s central argument is reinforced, in particular, by massive recourse to cinematic discourse. The movie code functions in Juneteenth on several textual levels. Thematically, its presence is legitimized by the twist in the story when Bliss, one of the book’s two protagonists, goes through a short-lived career in film-making before moving on to big-time politics, with both careers bringing to light his manipulative proclivities. This narrative plane called for juxtaposing two forms of “low” culture – Black church service and early American movie industry. Discussion of their common and dissimilar features is based on the propositions developed by Walter Benjamin and cinema theoreticians (Sergei Eisenstein, Yuri Tynianov, Viktor Shklovsky, Vadim Skuratovsky). Verbally re-coded cinematic techniques (camera moves, shifting point of view, montage), are, in their turn, made ample use of in the text’s narrative and spatial-temporal structure predicated upon both its semantics, and general modernist orientation of Ellison’s writings. Thus, his poetics is in line with transition to “spatial form” (J.Frank) characteristic of modernist fiction. Last but not least, cinematic semantic field is also used to mediate configurations of whiteness-blackness-power on the symbolic level of their construction."