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Rodica Mihaila
Course 5
20th Century American Ligterature
3rd Year
Spring Semester 2009

Instances of Modernism: Hemingway, Dos Passos,

Hemingway (1899-1961)
I.--Another instance of modernist experiment (within the traditional short story and novel
form), different from the aestheticism of Fitzgerald and N. Yet, shares with Fitzerald a
-Like Fitzerald, he writes an ethos, not just books .
-Turns his life into a legend, he = culture hero , self-mythologizer , deliberately
projects his own personality and life as central to his work.
-Lost Generation
-Modernist experiment. But: his work defines in relation to the newspaper:
Fitz.=….to Hollywood film. H=reductionist; F=aestheticism

General remarks: H=a realist with moral and ethical preoccupations

Americanism: importance of experience (moment of truth)—his work grows in
clusters of related experience

= born July 21 , 1899 - Oak Park ( Chicago suburb) , father-physician , mother - opera
= played football , boxed ; fisherman , hunter ( father's suicide in 1928 )
= reporter - Kansas City Star
= 1918 -Italy , ambulance driver ( wounded : A Farewell to Arms ); on the Toronto Star
= 1921 - Paris - a foreign correspondent for the Star
- he met gertrude Stein , Ezra Pound , Ford Madox Ford , Scott
- the idol image of the self : energy , ambition , observer , seemingly
emotionless , tightly suppressed emotionla force , courage , streaks of
cruelty ( weakness incited his savagery) , suicidal moments and
outbursts of cruelty
= 1923 - 1 book : Three Stories and Ten Poems , In Our Time , The Sun Also Rises-
a visionary quality- revealed an age to itself
= 1929 - A Farewell to Arms - ( a success ) , Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley
= 1932 - Spain - Death in the Afternoon - Bullfighting , hunting and fishing
= 1935 - The Green Hills of Africa - exploits on a safari
= 1937 - Spain , correspondent -covering the Civil War
-To Have and Have Not
- Spain War - The Fifth Play ( bad play )

= 1938 - Snows of Kilimanjaro - snow covered mountain ( 19, 710 feet high , the
highest in Africa ); western summit called " The House of God ".
= 1940 - For Whom the Bell Tolls
=World War II - - a press correspondent - heroic exploits
= 1951- his health deteriorated
=1952 - The Old Man and the Sea
= 1953 - two crashes of small plants in Africa injured his back , heavy drinking
= 1954 - The Nobel Prize - a great public figure
= 1961 - hospitalized for paranoia ; the day after he was released as cured , he committed
=Clusters of related experience p.VIII/3 verso
-A. his boyhood in Oak Park Illinois and Michigan woods - love of sports ( football ,
boxing) ; fishing and hunting ; father's love for outer sports
-B. war - 1918 - the Italian front - badly wounded in both legs ,
- 3 months in hospital in Milan A Farewell to Arms
- joined the infantry - lieutenant
- In Our Time - collection of stories - stories of initiation - Nick Adams
- For Whom the Bell Tolls - Spanish war
- C. Bull-fighting - since 1923 , love for Spain : Fiesta , Death in the Afternoon
- D. Big -game hunting ( violence , toughness , tragic intensity) - fictional material after
the first 10 week safari in Africa 1933-1934
- Green Hills of Africa - autobiographical writing
- E. Sea-fishing - 1934-returned Florida ; bought a fishing boat - the Pilar
To Have and Have Not - harry Morgan - the owner of a powerboat ,
smuggler of people and liquor from Cuba
The Old Man and the Sea - Santiago and the merlin
- a parable of man's pathetic struggle with the hostile universe
- a parallel with Moby Dick - without the philosophical implications ;
the evil within ourselves / destiny
= Instability of his emotional life (parents, wives, homo, paranoia)
= Crippling wound, physical wound (Nick Adams, Jake, Frederick Henry, Cantwill) –
= Deterioration of his health. Paranoia (1961)-suicide like his father in 28. Homosexual
drive; hatred of women; courage and cruelty, lies, trecherous (Mary Welsh Hemingway:
“How It Was”-51)

III—The world of his fiction: violent nad brutal, failures, fear and despair (metaphysical
despair—Existentialist = nada, nothingness. The power to endure with dignity, to make
moral choices

IV—Themes: recurrent theme of death—extreme limit of experience: Love, courage,

loneliness, endurance. Citeste de la Nobel Prize despre loneliness.

V. Character: man alone in the face of nothingness, meaningless world . No past, no

future. No coward. Teaches the lesson of endurance. Some ideal of the self, loyalty to a
code. Violence = the threat of nothingness (Conrad) . He stands under the shadow of ruin/
the disintegration of the self

VI. Narrative strategies=
-Two forms of the stories: of initiation ( the youth discovers the world ) and of
the test ( the man who thinks he knows the secret is set in a crucial situation)
Accumulation of basic structural unites –moments of physical perception --corresponding
to moments of truth (Whitman+ objectivity dar si limitation=no transcendence)
-The reductive principle-plot, --leaving-out strategy

VII. Style

His modernist experiment:

a. at formal level--Pound: “Make it New ”=;
b. b. nothingness, nada =Waste Land (existentialist)
- the human being is alone in a hostile universe
- the business of salvation is reduced to endurance , to finding ways of
coping with dignity
- the drama of confrontation is always directed outwardly , not inwardly
- oversimplification- reduced to the "grace to endure''
- no " open road" , ' on passage to India" like in Whitman - no
1. H. technical or stylistic experiment within the traditional short story and novel
forms. He relates this with the cultivation of a set of masculine values, thus
updating the traditional novel in his “Hemingway hero.”
2. Style = master of a deliberately impoverished style, bare, simple syntax, a
taciturn style relying on implication, everyday in vocabulary . Differs from:
Fitz + Nabokov =masters of the ornate, romantic, gorgeous , poetic,
mainly descriptive prose tradition, over-blown style, over-statement.
He creates symbolic frames that replaces the stream of consciousness
through interior monologue: ex. Rain, cold, mud
Integrity of small units = moments of truth - noun or verbal nouns , as
equivalents of images. The verb is minimal and the adjective is repudiated.
Experience being a sequence- the style becomes a series of simple
declarative sentences / or combined in a compound .
Short sentences linked by "and" - no hierarchy of values
Journalistic practice - no adornment , an eye for detail , only present - no
past and no future
3. Technique of Leaving-Out (no war in Farewell to…). Reductive techniques
4. Difference bet. the newspaper story and the news style modernist story: a.
defines the public realm, the outer world of fact (set of shared concerns); b.
increasingly personal ,episodic, linked to the private sphere (personal
memory) ex. Citesc din In Our Time (Fisher)
5. “A machine-age aesthetic” = as in modernist architecture which challenges
ornament, false materials and historical simulation in favor of simple, modern
materials (steel, glass, cement). Fisher: the same aesthetic in H.: narrative
simplicity, tape-recorded dialogues without comment or description (vezi

6. H. seeks in situation - the root certitude of life and in sensation - the root of

- in many respects , the world saw in Hemingway a typical American -
his fame rested on this image , no matter whether it was right or wrong
- the cult of experience , of courage
- the pragmatic view of art- his writing is reassurance , personal
confirmation , therapeutic - the idea of the artist as a spiritual leader

- simplicity and naturalness
- a master narrator - his stories point simultaneously to the concreteness
and the universal and metaphysical aspects of personal experience
- narrative strategy - relies on the structural principle of selective
observation of human perceptions
- the principle of reduction - the determinable and
irreducible comprehension
- concentration on subject , place , mood

- incapable of dealing with great tracts of experience
- had only one basic theme. He did not explore very deeply the dramatic
and the moral implications of his theme
- no real interest in character ( see his love stories )
- repudiation of history and anti-intellectualism ( all his stories end
quickly . The lover is like in Poe , in love with death)
- the story has no past and no future - it is like an archetypal moment
outside time and society;
- only one hero - the self ; the others are shadows
- his art is essentially lyric , noy dramatic
- it depends on success on precision , coherence in structure , intensity
and purity of emotional effect
- Parallel : Poe - H. -both aimed at intensity of emotional effect
- tightness of technical control

John Dos Passos (1896-1970)

—experimenting with literary form

Shared with Hemingway: --Born in Chicago (son of famous Wall Street lawyer)
Included in the “Lost Generation” through his experience (Graduated from Harvard in
1916; 1917 went to France (ambulance service); lingered on in Paris (modernist
experiment); part in the Spanish Civil War (US medical corps)—
Different experience: 1925 Manhattan Transfer –after that for a decade evolution from an
aesthet to a political rebel. –deepening radicalism and increasing ambition as a writer.
-Main concern: critique of American society (detects causes, prescribes cures)
American life= corruption, futility, frustration

Most ambitious work : his trilogy USA (38): The 42nd Parallel (30); Nineteen Nineteen
(32); The Big Money (36)= the history of American life in the first three decades of the
20th century.
=a culmination of his experimentation with literary form (finds technical
means to render the connections between human suffering and alienation and the social
structures that produced it.
=dramatized the impact of public events on private lives, illustrated the
social nature of individual experience and indicted capitalist America
-Structure: four components: narratives, Newsreels, biographies and Camera Eye
-12 interwoven fictional narratives, each told from the point of view of its central
character. Interrupted by each other and by three kinds of formal devices:
1. 68 newsreel sections, =constructed collages of actual newspaper
headlines, news story fragments, and snatches of song lyrics, political
speeches, and advertisements =they trace mass culture and popular
consciousness over the years (vezi la Hemingway difference bet.
newspaper story and news style modernist story)
2. 27 biographies of key public figures, who shaped or represented or
resisted the major social forces of the era (Isadora Duncan, Rudolph
Valentino, Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wrtight, Th. Veblen)
3. 51 Camera Eye sections=stream-of-consciousness fragments that
depict the growing awareness of a sensitive and artistic individual
living in the disturbing world described in the book.
Conclusion: Fitz. Uses Hollywood techniques; Hem.=newspaper story; Dos
Passos=combines cinematographic and journalistic techniques (newsreel and camera eye
In the late 1930s—he rejected his radical ideas indictment of Capitalist America. In his
second trilogy District of Columbia (1952) he became extremely conservative. Returned
to more traditional forms.

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