MUD log with James Phelan / Phillip Sipiora et al.

The Scribe tells you: I am recording everything that happens
here.  This is the grand entranceway to the Seulemonde Conference
Center. All around you lies the detritus of construction. 
Straight ahead is the  center's main hall.  To the south is
Todd's Area. To the east is an experimental  area. There is also
a sign here.  You could "read sign".

        Obvious exits are south, north, and east.

Phelan says: Thanks for inviting me.  It's been awhile since I've
read _FWTBT_, but I think Hemingway's representation of Pilar as
a manly woman complicates the question about how we evaluate that
representation.  Is it the manliness that's appealing?  Or does
the character serve to break down the stereotypes of manly and

Doyle says: There are several digressions in narration (story-within-a-story) in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, the most powerful perhaps being Pilar's tale of the massacre of the fascists. What are your thoughts about this narrative technique?
Phelan says: Well, my first thought is that I wish I'd reread the novel for today. But the technique is an effective way to give dramatic evidence of the kind of world the characters are living in, and more specifically, knowledge about the relation between the particular struggles of Robert Jordan and his mountain group and the larger war.
Ahern says: In a _Farewell to Arms_ what do you see as the connection between Rinaldi and Catherine? They seem both to provide education/instruction to or for Frederic, one about love/relationships, the other about the nature of war. I'm sure that this parallel is deliberate on Hemingway's part. My question to you is how is it consciously patterned (or is it)?
Phelan says: Yes, I see the connection and I think it is deliberately patterned, though I have no incontrovertible evidence to cite. But given the progression of Frederic's learning, it's hard not to conclude that Hemingway didn't plan these functions for Rinaldi and Catherine--even if he wouldn't have called them "functions."
Hefner says: Do you feel that Hemingway condones Frederic's desertion? Or, does he use it to show an inability to commit? If so, the reader may be looking for lack of commitment in Frederic's relationship with Catherine. Do you think that Hemingway saw inability to commit as a pervasive modern syndrome?
Phelan says: I think that Hemingway does indeed condone the desertion--and that Frederic has no real commitment to the war. He joined the army because he was in Italy and spoke Italian. I think Hemingway invites us the "rightness" of Frederic's leaving the pregnant Catherine in Milan to go back to the front. Hemingway sets us up to see the desertion as long overdue.
Drake says: Critic Chaman Nahal claims that Hemingway "was the first novelist to use inactivity--physical or mental--as part of the structure of a novel." He, furthermore, suggests that this strategy is emblematic of a tug between the naturalistic and the existential, between submitting to "other" forces and asserting one's will against said other. Any thoughts on this systolic/diastolic narrative movement so prevalent in Hemingway's fiction.
Phelan says: I think that in Hemingway "inactivity" is often only apparent or at least that it becomes a sign of other things. If you give me a concrete example, I'll try to comment further. [Too bad we never got back to this issue.]
Gauntt says: You mentioned in your response to Dr. Sipiora's first question that you find "Hemingway's representation of the woman's perspective in HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS to be impressive." UP IN MICHIGAN seems to me to be told at least in part from the perspective of Liz Coates. Do you find Hemingway's handling of this to be as effective? Do you feel that Jim's treatment of Liz is representative of views that Hemingway himself may have held?
Phelan says: I find "Up in Michigan" harder to deal with, that is, I think it's harder to locate where Hemingway is in relation to what he's representing than in "Hills." But I'm confident that Jim's treatment of Liz is not representative of Hemingway's views of women more generally.
Christian says: Hemingway is not generally thought of as a humorist. However, in "The Sun Also Rises", I have found many, many submerged jokes, puns, and witticisms. How do these jokes fit in with Hemingway's style of narrative, and are they as prevalent in his other works?
Phelan says: The humor has various functions, I think, though its chief function is characterization. _FTA_ is very funny as well. Read some of the early scenes between Frederic and Catherine aloud some time. "She slapped me. I felt I had a certain advantage." Or take a look at the chapter where the verb "cooked" is repeated so many times: think about what verb Hemingway would have used if he could have gotten it past the censors and then listen to it in your head. I'll be surprised if it doesn't make you laugh. I'd add that in both of these cases-- and most of the others--the humor has a serious undertone as well.
Rand says: Hemingway's technique of dialogue in FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS seems inconsistent. It is meant to be understood as spoken Spanish, but sometimes the focus is on meaning and sometimes on syntax and linguistics. What is the narrative theory behind this?
Phelan says: I think Hemingway faces a difficult representational task there. He wants to do something to indicate that the characters are actually speaking Spanish, but he is not writing primarily for a Spanish-speaking audience. What to do? I think he varies focus depending on what else he's trying to do with the scene. This strategy makes good sense to me, because a one-rule- fits-all approach will severely limit our view of what authors have already done or are likely to do. I can say a lot more about this point, if you're interested.
Walker says: Do you see Hemingway's lack of descriptive, flowery narrative as perhaps contributing to the fact that Hemingway is less popular with female readers than with male, or is this more attributable to his depiction (or non-depiction) of his female characters?
Phelan says: Are you sure that Hemingway is less popular with female readers? Are you talking about in your class or in the culture more generally?
Walker says: Well, I think he IS less popular w/female readers, but definitely w/me!
Phelan says: Well, I do think that Hemingway's cultural status as a "man's man" frequently makes women readers think that they - won't like him and I know others like you who read him and say "he's not for me." But I'd be very hesitant about attributing these responses to the lack of "descriptive, flowery narrative."
Smith says: What work of Hemingway's do you think best represents his mastery of style, and why is this work exemplary?
Phelan says: Well,I don't want to duck the question but I'd have a hard time picking one because I think that Hemingway has different styles and different ways of showing his mastery. I find "Indian Camp" to be very powerful, and the more I work with the earlier stories the more I'm impressed by what he's done in them.
Taylor says: In this class we have been talking a great deal about narrative structures and strategies. In another online session I asked Robert Scholes the following question which he sidestepped: Is it possible to accurately define or describe a difference between modern and postmodern narratives? What do you think?
Phelan says: Before I go to Taylor, let me see if Walker wants to follow up or if Smith does. (I'm falling behind--sorry for that and for the typos!)
Walker says: I would like to know if you think women might have a problem reading Hemingway because of his female characterizations. I think women like Catherine and Maria are almost "male fantasy" figures.
Phelan says: Yes, I do think that women have a problem with Hem's female characterizations--and I find myself having problems with some of them too.
Taylor says: (repeat) In this class we have been talking a great deal about narrative structures and strategies. In another online session I asked Robert Scholes the following questions which he sidestepped: Is it possible to accurately define or describe a difference between modern and postmodern narratives? What do you think?
Phelan says: The short, direct answer to your question, Taylor, is No. But the long answer would involve stating our definitions of modern and postmodern and the purposes those definitions are designed to serve. Then we could go forth with some shared understandings.
Brannen says: Why were Hemingway's African short stories so much more powerfully received and effective than _Green Hills of Africa_, even though _GHA_ was an extended form of the same subject matter?
Phelan says: Good question--which is to say I never thought of it and I don't really know. But I'd guess it has a lot to do with the generic status of Green Hills. People regard it not as fiction but as some kind of factual narrative and that changes judgments a lot.
Lance says: In class, we discussed whether or not Jake Barnes experienced any significant maturation during the course of TSAR or if he simply drifted from one scene to another without ever experiencing a broader awareness of himself or his world. How do you perceive the Jake Barnes who ends the novel with the statement, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" Has he grown or does he remain static?
Phelan says: I'm of the party that thinks Jake finally comes to accept the limits of himself and his world; I see him as struggling against his knowledge of those limits for much of the novel. The final line nicely encapsulates his ironic acceptance of his self-knowledge. It's critical that Jake say the line to Brett because so much of what he's had trouble accepting involves her.
Falco says: In FWBT, what is the significance of the one chapter shift in point of view from Robert Jordan to El Sordo? Does it serve the same thematic function as the shift into the lion's point of view in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber?"
Phelan says: I think that, like the narrative that Pilar tells, it broadens our view of the narrative world, helps us locate Jordan in the larger frame just as the climactic action is building. I'm more troubled by the shift to the lion's point of view in "Macomber," despite my admiration for Hemingway's willingness to experiment.
Karon says: In your analysis of FTA (in READING PEOPLE, READING PLOTS), you mention tasks that make the novel "effective." What do you mean, exactly, by an "effective novel"? How do we determine that one is or is not? (I would surmise that you would set this up as a "successful" transaction between reader and writer--but I'm not sure.)
Phelan says: Yes, Karon, I'd define effectiveness in rhetorical terms. What is the narrative task the author has set for him or her self? How does it affect the reader, who engages with it, cognitively, emotionally, ethically? What are the consequences of that involvement? The answers to these questions determine my judgments about effectiveness.
Stratton says: At the end of FWBT, we read Robert Jordan's internal monologue in which he tells himself to "Do it," i.e., kill himself, that it will be "nothing." Yet he doesn't. Do you read this as Jordan's real desire to hold off the cavalry, or as his fear of death? What do you make of Hemingway's inclusion of this internal debate?
Phelan says: I read it as Jordan's struggle with himself; it'll be easier to ill himself than to wait and be finished off by the cavalry. Hemingway's inclusion of it dramatizes the difficulty of Jordan's situation and helps us appreciate what it takes to wait so that the others can get away.
Zangla says: Liz Coates (Michigan) and Jig (White Elephants) are good examples of the female Hemingway hero who suffers from the partner's insensitivity. It seems that Hemingway's reputation for calling women nurses, whores, and bitches is not well founded. Hasn't he made his women strong with masculine attitudes, like matadors, in order to survive and not to depend on the male in the traditional way?
Phelan says: Yes, for some of his women; no, for others. Part of the problem with the discussion about Hemingway's women is the tendency to ump all of them together. The tendency is natural--we like to find patterns--but when the patterns run roughshod over the particulars we have problems.
Munns says: There's some ambiguity in Hemingway's shift in person when Frederic thinks to "himself" in the hospital corridor: "Now Catherine would die. This is what you did. You died." Is this the familiar or Henry's resentment of being left alone?
Phelan says: I don't think that the "you" is directed at Catherine. It's the generalized "you" --just as we sometimes say "one" or "we." This is what happens. We die. They throw us in and don't tell us the rules and the first time they catch us off base they kill us. Frederic is angry here, as the mixed metaphors show.
Tidwell says: I see lots of superfluous description and irrelevant digressions in *The Sun Also Rises* (despite its tighter structure) than in Hemingway's subsequent novels--do you find any unity in *Sun* (narratively, perhaps, as Dr. Sipiora has suggested)?
Phelan says: I think that there is unity, but it's not a unity of linked sequence of actions the way _FTA_ is. The linked sequence doesn't take over till halfway through, till Romero shows up. Before that we're getting a sense of Jake and his world during which a lot of things are introduced that get picked up on in the final sections. Most generally, what I'd say is that _Sar_ is a peculiar kind of tragedy of character, in which we see Jake come to the realizations about his life that I was touching on before. The incidents in their different ways contribute to this narrative project. This would have to be fleshed out a lot, I realize, but perhaps it'll give you something to react to.