Modernity and Progress
Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Orwell
Publication Year: 2011
In the 1920s and ‘30s, understandings of time, place, and civilization were subjected to a barrage of new conceptions. Ronald Berman probes the work of three writers who wrestled with one or more of these issues in ways of lasting significance.
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Orwell all grappled with fluid notions of time: Hemingway’s absolute present, Fitzgerald’s obsession with what might be and what might have been, and Orwell’s concerns with progress. For these authors, progress is also tied to competing senses of place--for Fitzgerald, the North versus the South; for Hemingway, America versus Europe. At stake for each is an understanding of what constitutes true civilization in a post-war world. Berman discusses Hemingway’s deployment of language in tackling the problems of thinking and knowing. Berman follows this notion further in examining the indisputable impact upon Hemingway’s prose of Paul Cézanne’s painting and the nature of perception.
Finally, Berman considers the influence on Orwell of Aristotle and Freud’s ideas of civilization, translated by Orwell into the fabric of 1984 and other writings.
Ronald Berman is Professor of English at the University of California at San Diego and past chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is author of six books, including “The Great Gatsby” and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas and Fitzgerald-Wilson-Hemingway: Language and Experience.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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Nearly every significant detail of Fitzgerald’s authorial life is linked to a date. He locates us in the period 1919–29 as no other writer does, making the sharpest of distinctions between things happening, say, in 1919, 1922, and 1927. The values of realism are so well served that he is invoked as evidence by historians. But the passage of time matters as much as accurate location within it. In Fitzgerald, as in the decade of the twenties, change or continuance in time is a measure of progress.
1. Fitzgerald and the Geography of Progress
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We see the connected and opposed regions of North and South in many of Fitzgerald’s stories and novels: “The Ice Palace” (May 1920), “The Jelly- Bean” (October 1920), “Two For a Cent” (April 1922), “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” ( June 1922), The Beautiful and Damned (1922), “Dice, Brassknuckles & Guitar” (May 1923), “The Third Casket” (May 1924), “The Sensible Thing” ( July 1924), The Great Gatsby (1925), “The Dance” ...
2. Hemingway and “the New America”
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Hemingway often displaces personal with national identity: “American women” in “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”; “the American and the girl with him” in “Hills Like White Elephants”; “the American lady” (and the elaborate sequence of “American” references) in “A Canary for One.” There are “American tales” that seem by definition untrue in “Banal Story.”
3. Fitzgerald: Time, Continuity, Relativity
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George Santayana, in Character and Opinion in the United States (1920), recalls that “the President of Harvard College, seeing me once by chance soon after the beginning of a term, inquired how my classes were getting on; and when I replied that I thought they were getting on well, that my men seemed to be keen and intelligent, he stopped me as if I was about to waste his time. ‘I meant,’ said he, ‘what is the number of students in your ...
4. Hemingway and the Authority of Thought
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In life and literature Hemingway moved north-south and west-east, following the line Illinois-Italy-Paris-Spain-Key West-Africa-Cuba. There were epicycles within the orbit, and the pattern recurved. But there was a pattern, beginning with the departure from the United States and what it stood for, then toward the great European “centres of culture and civilization,” and then to those places opposed to them.1
5. Recurrence in Hemingway and C
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Words and also forms in Hemingway have second lives, especially those motifs deriving from visual art. Necessarily, scholarly focus has been on Cézanne, who according to Hemingway himself was deeply influential. For Hemingway, the main issue was Cézanne’s ability to interpret landscape— not with documentary accuracy, although recent scholarship comparing photographs of Cézanne’s scenes to his versions of them makes useful ...
6. Orwell: The Future of Progress
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One can’t deal with the Idea of Progress without including George Orwell because he ended it. But was his effect merely political? It seemed so—readers behind the Iron Curtain were “amazed that a writer who never lived in Russia should have so keen a perception into its life.”1 Originally meant as praise, this now implies that Nineteen Eighty-Four assumes importance from a subject that has disappeared.
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Publication Year: 2011