ENG 4508: Junior/Senior Honors Seminar: Ernest Hemingway
Dr. Carl Eby
How does your understanding of a work of literature change when you get to know its author really well? When you can compare many of his works and chart the progress of his style? When you know his biography and have a feel for his engagement with the history of his times? When you develop a feel for his subtle, and not-so-subtle, thematic and psychological hang-ups? When you can study how his individual works evolved through multiple drafts? Here’s your chance to really get to know and understand one the twentieth century’s most important and influential writers: Ernest Hemingway. In this class, we’ll try to understand Hemingway’s individual works within the context of his entire life and career—and this will help us to more generally appreciate how a deep knowledge of a writer’s life and corpus can profoundly enhance our understanding and enjoyment of individual works by that author. We’ll try to place Hemingway’s works within the modernist movement, and we’ll explore how his works from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s exemplify American literature in those decades. We’ll think critically about what Michel Foucault calls the “author function,” and we’ll look at Hemingway’s construction of an artistic persona and his transformation into a popular American icon. We’ll explore many of the major themes in his work (aesthetics, trauma, loss, war, violence, courage, vulnerability, marriage, love, sexuality, gender, race, colonialism, nature, spirituality, coming of age, the writing life, and the struggle to construct meaningful values in a world in which values are not a given), and we will explore his work from multiple perspectives (biographical, psychological, historical, political, eco-critical, intertextual, narratological, and semiotic). The class will examine several of Hemingway’s manuscripts and pay particular attention to psychology, gender theory, cultural history, and advanced research techniques.
Required texts will include The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigía Edition; The Sun Also Rises; A Farewell to Arms; Death in the Afternoon; For Whom the Bell Tolls; A Moveable Feast; and The Garden of Eden. Students will also be asked to read a biography of Hemingway (either Reynolds, Lynn, Mellow, or Meyers).