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The Critical Reception of Hemingway's 'The Sun Also Rises'

The Critical Reception of Hemingway's 'The Sun Also Rises'

Peter L. Hays
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Critical Reception of Hemingway's 'The Sun Also Rises'
    Book Description:

    In the eight decades since its publication, Hemingway's ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ like a Rorschach blot, has measured not only critics' opinions of Hemingway but also the critical temper of the times. An initial reviewer saw the book as a satire on American expatriates, an unflattering portrait of wastrels and a nymphomaniac wandering Europe. Other critics of the time saw it as a reflection of post-First World War malaise, inscribing for history the Lost Generation - those critics, that is, who took it as a serious literary effort and did not simply dismiss it as pornographic, as Hemingway's own parents did. Since then the novel has been interpreted, variously, as a study of an impotent man's existential dilemma, re-read as a modern-day version of the Fisher King myth, attacked by feminist critics as the macho diatribe of a misogynist, and, most recently, seen as a study of gender roles and the performance of masculinity. There is no other book that surveys the entire span of ‘The Sun Also Rises’ criticism, documents the fashionable waves in which criticism has travelled, and points out how each age interprets the novel to suit itself, reflecting the cultural concerns of the moment. Peter Hays is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of California, Davis.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-776-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction: In the Beginning
    (pp. 1-7)

    In January 1924, Hemingway — himself twenty-four, seven months older than the century — sailed back to France from a stint as journalist for the Toronto Star, determined to quit reporting in order to concentrate on his fiction writing. He was serving as a Red Cross volunteer in Italy when he was wounded in the First World War two weeks before his nineteenth birthday by the explosion of a trench mortar shell; thus he knew the war without ever having been a soldier in it. Now, with no regular job, he and his wife Hadley, together with their son Jack...

  7. 1: Good Style, Bad Content, No Philosophy: The Initial Reviews
    (pp. 8-23)

    Many Americans fled to Europe in the 1920s to escape Prohibition and the nation’s Puritanism or their parents’ proscriptions; according to Kenneth Lynn’s Hemingway there were 35,000 in Paris in 1927 (149). Reviewers tended to be chary of youthful publications coming from abroad, dismissing many as outré experiments or pornographic excursions. Even those published in the United States received a wary eye when the subject matter depicted European life. Newspaper and general magazine reviewers, who catered to the general populace, saw that life as dissolute, unproductive, and therefore un-American. And Hemingway agreed. He sought to distinguish himself from most of...

  8. 2: The Development of In-Depth Criticism: 1947–1961
    (pp. 24-46)

    Jean Paul Sartre, in a 1946 Atlantic article, remarked that the “greatest literary development in France between 1929 and 1939 was the discovery of Faulkner, Dos Passos, Hemingway, Caldwell, Steinbeck. . . . The French novel which caused the greatest furor between 1940 and 1945, The Stranger, by Albert Camus, deliberately borrowed the technique of The Sun Also Rises” (114). Following the war, Hemingway became a celebrity, his works transferred increasingly to film, his visits to New York appearing in gossip columns. He influenced younger writers as dissimilar as J. D. Salinger, Mickey Spillane, Saul Bellow, and Raymond Carver, although...

  9. 3: The Hemingway Industry Takes Off: The 1960s and Early 1970s
    (pp. 47-96)

    Hemingway’s suicide in 1961 spurred many tributes and several hastily published biographies by acquaintances like Pete Hamill, Jed Kiley, Milt Machlin, Lillian Ross, and A. E. Hotchner, even by Hemingway’s younger brother Leicester (who was fifteen years younger than Ernest and had no direct memories of Ernest’s childhood) and by his older sister Marcelline (married name Sanford). Hemingway was now an accepted canonical author, and thus the sixties also saw multiple publications of student guides to various Hemingway novels, including Cliff’s Notes, Barron’s Simplified Guides, Monarch Study Guides, and Merrill Studies (by such esteemed scholars as Sheldon Grebstein and William...

  10. 4: Critical Theories Take Hold: The Mid-1970s to Mid-1980s
    (pp. 97-153)

    In his bibliographic essay on Hemingway of 1989, Bruce Stark pointed out that “[i]n an academic field that has become an industry,” “production stimulates production” as Bernard Oldsey puts it, and “the more that’s written on a subject, the more significant the subject seems, and the more significant it seems the more secondary (tertiary) will be the matters that seem worth going into” (Stark 407, quoting Oldsey, 144). This phenomenon certainly came strongly into play in Hemingway criticism from the late sixties on. The Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual began publication in 1969 and continued for a decade. The journal Hemingway notes was...

  11. 5: More Theories, Many Gendered, Some Psychological: The Mid-1980s to Mid-1990s
    (pp. 154-216)

    Linda Wagner-Martin, in the introduction to her Hemingway: Seven Decades of Criticism (1998), pointed out that “critics both mature and newly trained have in the 1990s found fresh patterns, unpredictably complex insights, throughout Hemingway’s fiction” (4), and that forty percent of the essays in the new collection were by women, as opposed to earlier collections by primarily male scholars writing about an author thought of as extremely male.

    Not all Hemingway scholarship published in the period leading up to Wagner-Martin’s comment featured complex insights, however. For instance, Gregory Sojka’s 1985 book on angling tells us little new about The Sun...

  12. 6: The Continued Proliferation of Theory, 1995–2009
    (pp. 217-301)

    The Cambridge Companion to Ernest Hemingway, edited by Scott Donaldson, later president of the Hemingway Society, was published in 1996, with a collection of essays by notable Hemingway scholars. I’ll deal with the critical essays shortly, but will begin with the bibliographical essay of Susan Beegel, current editor of the Hemingway Review. Beegel prints a graph showing about forty articles and books per year on Hemingway during the period from 1961 through 1965, growing to about fifty articles and books by the end of that decade and to seventy by 1980. The pace of publication plateaued during the first half...

  13. Summary, but No End, No Conclusion
    (pp. 302-304)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 305-334)
  15. Index
    (pp. 335-346)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 347-347)