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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
Sipiora says: REFEREE CALLS THE 10-MINUTE WARNING
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
Sipiora says: REFEREE RULES THAT CHRIS TIDWELL'S QUESTION WILL BE
THE LAST ONE.
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
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.