In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

246Reviews voted to Hemingway's relationship to Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, and Martha Gellhorn—three women writers who craved his approval and who profoundly influenced his public reception. With volumes of this quality still expanding our understanding of Hemingway and gender, one hopes that word of the revolution in Hemingway studies will begin to filter down into more American classrooms . University of South Carolina-BeaufortCarl Eby McGurl, Mark. The NovelArt: Elevations ofAmerican Fiction afier HenryJames. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton Univ. Press, 2001. 213 pp. Cloth: $60.00. Paper: $26.95. This impressive and rewarding study analyzes the development ofthe "art-novel" in early twentieth-century America, which McGurl sets within the larger context of American and British literary modernism. He uses the term "art-novel," instead of the more familiar "modernist novel," to underline his contention that the latter is most cogently defined neither by its subject-matter nor by its experimental form, but, rather, by its selfconscious claim to be "'art,' and thus ... a bearer of cultural capital" (29). Drawing upon the sociological perspective ofPierre Bourdieu, McGurl shows that Henry James both modeled and codified possibilities for conceiving individual novels (and not merely specific characters within novels ) as objects with the capacity to embody aesthetic and intellectual prestige and, further, to confer such prestige on authors and on readers. Responding to what he experienced as a crisis of indistinction throughout the modern social and cultural order—including (but certainly not limited to) a swelling "flood" ofmediocre popular novels, consumed by masses of undiscriminating readers—James fashioned the Novel (capital N) as a form that, above all, provides a framework for distinguishing the astute few from the impercipient multitude: "The reader of James—the Jamesian —was not an aristocrat, exactly, but something else, a certain kind of aesthete-intellectual able to share the Master's endless enthusiasm for the mental labor of making distinctions" (39-40). After James, the "'social' intent" of modernist fiction becomes to reconfigure traditional class differences between the "high" and the "low" into a distinction between "the intelligent" or "smart set" (to adopt the name of an American magazine later edited by H. L. Mencken and Williard Wright) and "the stupid," including the stupidly unimaginative (75). The art-novel, McGurl argues, often adopts the "pastoral" mode as redefined by William Empson, where intellectual complexity and aesthetic sophistication articulate themselves in a dialectical relationship with the Studies in American Fiction247 "'simple'—naïve, stupid, low, primitive, childish, uneducated" (9). But the modernist novel, McGurl demonstrates, did not focus on characters (such as Faulkner's Benjy, Loos's Lorelei Lee, or Stein's Lena) or regions (such as Faulkner's South or Crane's slums) that it portrayed as simple, primitive, or low merely to establish a flattering contrast with its own intellectual cosmopolitanism. It also depended upon an empathie , even identificatory, relationship with the "low" to distinguish itself from bourgeois moralizers, superficial socialites, and the general philistinism and intellectual vacuity that arbiters such as Mencken found throughout middle and upper-class America. McGurl's compelling discussions of such works as Crane's Maggie: A Girl ofthe Streets and Loos's Gentlemen PreferBlondes reveal the authors and their texts engaging in subtly shifting "identifications and differentiations" not only with the characters and settings the works primarily depict but also with alternate discourses and perspectives on that same "pastoral" material (93). Maggie acquires its distinction as an innovative work of art by establishing a "triangulated relation" with reformist documentary (associated with Jacob Riis) and, at the same time, with "genteel" literary approaches to the slums (93). Perhaps the most striking ofmany strong sections in McGurl's book is his consideration in Chapter Two of "dimensionality" and the "social geometries " ofmodernist fiction. Beginning with a reading ofEdwin Abbott's strange 1881 work, Elatland: A Romance ofMany Dimensions, McGurl brings together nineteenth-century European mathematical speculation about dimensionality (is there a fourth dimension?) with modernist artists' increasing emphasis on the disjunction between ostensibly threedimensional "realist" representation and the flat space on which such representation in fact occurs: the two-dimensional surface of a painted canvas or of a written or printed page. In a complex discussion that cannot be reproduced here...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 246-248
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.