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Life Arts    H4'ed 7/29/16

Lesley M. M. Blume on Hemingway's Hypermasculinity (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) July 29, 2016: The twentieth century was filled with nightmares: World War I and World War II and the Cold War. After World War I ended, Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) emerged as a literary force and cultural icon of hypermasculinity for many American men in Tom Brokaw's so-called "greatest generation" that emerged victorious in World War II and dominated the Cold War era -- such as President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963). Hypermasculinity may be manifested as hostile sexism or as ambivalent sexism.

Hemingway perfected his terse style of expression in his short stories and his famous novels The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). In the new book Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises (2016), the American journalist Lesley M. M. Blume details Hemingway's emergence as a novelist. She explains how he listened attentively in Paris in the early 1920s to the American authors Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) and Ezra Pound (1885-1972) tutor him about writing. Blume also details how the American authors Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) helped promote Hemingway's writing.

In the book Tough, Sweet & Stuffy: An Essay on Modern American Prose Style (1966), Walker Gibson (1919-2009) in English at New York University discusses how influential Hemingway's tough-talk style became by 1966. For later American examples of tough-talkers, see Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff (1979). For an equally spare style of writing the English language but without the tough-talk style characteristic of Hemingway, see the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe's novels Things Fall Apart (1958) and No Longer at Ease (1960).

But make no mistake about it, Donald J. Trump is a tough-talker, as Gibson describes tough-talkers.

By contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton tends toward being a stuffy-talker, as Gibson describes stuffy-talkers.

More to the point, Blume provides detailed information about the actual events and people portrayed in Hemingway's breakthrough 1926 novel. As the main title of her book suggests, everybody behaved badly. In the epilogue (pages 224-237), Blume provides us with biographical information about each person's life after Hemingway's 1926 novel was published.

Now, in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, so-called "second wave" feminism emerged as a significant cultural movement to counter the kind of hypermasculinity that Hemingway represented. But second-wave feminists sparked significant resistance in anti-60s conservatives -- resistance that is still strong in certain white men today who support the Republican Party's presidential candidate in 2016, Donald J. Trump. But the Democratic Party's presidential candidate in 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton (born in 1947), was part of the second-wave feminist movement. So Blume's book is timely.

The American Jesuit cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong (1912-2003) perceptively analyzes hypermasculinity in men in his brilliant book Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (1981), the published version of his 1979 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University.

In his widely cited 1975 PMLA article "The Writer's Audience is Always a Fiction," Ong also discusses Gibson's book and Hemingway's style. Ong's article is reprinted in An Ong Reader: Challenges for Further Inquiry (2002, pages 405-427).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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