Cover image for Reading desire : in pursuit of Ernest Hemingway
Reading desire : in pursuit of Ernest Hemingway
Moddelmog, Debra.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiii, 189 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1600 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3515.E37 Z7424 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Whether revered for his masculinity, condemned as an icon of machismo, or perceived as possessing complex androgynous characteristics, Ernest Hemingway is acknowledged to be one of the most important twentieth-century American novelists. For Debra A. Moddelmog, the intense debate about the nature of his identity reveals how critics' desires give shape to an author's many guises. In her provocative book, Moddelmog interrogates Hemingway's persona and work to show how our perception of the writer is influenced by society's views on knowledge, power, and sexuality. She believes that recent attempts to reinvent Hemingway as man and as artist have been circumscribed by their authors' investment in heterosexist ideology; she seeks instead to situate Hemingway's sexual identity in the interface between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Moddelmog looks at how sexual orientation, gender, race, nationality, able-bodiedness--and the intersections of these elements--contribute to the formation of desire. Ultimately, she makes a far-reaching and suggestive argument about multiculturalism and the canons of American letters, asserting that those who teach literature must be aware of the politics and ethics of the authorial constructions they promote.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Moddelmog theorizes that the exclusion of the author from interpretation of texts can "become a denial that restricts interpretation." The major denials: an author's history does not affect one's reading; the reader's erotic desires are irrelevant; criticizing and teaching are practical not ethical endeavors. A "desire-centered inquiry" of "ways in which desire is formed within all sorts of identity structuring (of authors)," the study perceives two images of Hemingway. One is public and sustains Hemingway as heterosexual, masculine, macho, and therefore sellable. In another the author reveals--without claiming Hemingway to be homosexual--Hemingway's desire for "feminine madness, male androgyny, bisexuality," an interpretation that defines him. Thus, the study not only redefines Hemingway but establishes a theory of reading, both its methods and its goals. This is a careful study: Moddelmog defines terms proper to gender criticism, acknowledges limitations, and documents other opinions in numerous lengthy footnotes and a bibliography. She clearly answers the crucial question--What role should the author's life play in the interpretation of texts?--though not beyond some disagreement. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty, though this reviewer suggests that in conjunction with this title undergraduates also read some "author-excluded" criticism: Malcolm Cowley, Robert Penn Warren, Harry Levin, et al. F. L. Ryan; Stonehill College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Reading Hemingway after the Author's Death and Returnp. 9
2 The Desire for and of the Author: Reconstructing Hemingwayp. 23
3 Casting out Forbidden Desires from the Garden of Eden: Capitalism and the Production of Hemingwayp. 58
4 Re-Embodying Hemingways Fiction and Lifep. 91
5 Critical Multiculturalism, Canonized Authors, and Desirep. 131
Notesp. 147
Works Citedp. 175
Indexp. 185