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As these stories document, discoveries in Hemingway studies – which may be new information or simply the publication of previously unavailable texts – are constant. They garner international coverage and spark commentary over why the author remains such a durable, omnipresent figure not just in American but in world culture. One need not look to the front pages or Internet links to gauge his popularity, either. In book publishing the appetite for new takes on familiar stories seems unquenchable.
Noting how the landmark publication of The Garden of Eden some twenty-five years after Hemingway’s suicide completely upended notions of Hemingway’s “Papa” persona and his masculine preoccupations, Suzanne del Gizzo and Kirk Curnutt argue that post-2000 criticism has addressed issues equally as important or central, including ecocriticism, queer theory, and trauma. These vital topics have simply been overshadowed by the conventional wisdom that Hemingway’s posthumous tale of sexual intrigue – now itself more than thirty years old – has overshadowed these critical endeavors. They further insist that in the wider culture readers are too obsessed with judging Hemingway’s personality and deciding whether he was a “jerk” (a term that turns up endlessly in articles and blogs) or a sensitive, charismatic bon vivant. Amid this distraction, they argue, the new Hemingway studies has expanded upon Hemingway’s core themes and sociopolitical relevance in surprising and elastic ways that deserve far more attention than they receive. In essence, these topics demonstrate that critics are comfortable with a multifaceted Hemingway instead of trying to prove who he “really” was behind the celebrity mask.
In “Shaping the Life: Hemingway Biographies Since 2000,” Kirk Curnutt argues that between roughly 1999 and 2016 Hemingway biography eschewed full, cradle-to-grave accounts of the subject’s life in favor of narrower, more up-close-and-personal examinations of specific periods and specific relationships. Within these depictions are questions of subjectivity and slanted presentation, such as Stephen Koch’s rampant use of free indirect discourse, a technique associated with fiction, in his account of Hemingway’s fractured friendship with John Dos Passos over the 1937 execution of Jose Robles. Curnutt weighs Koch’s prejudicial presentation against more balanced efforts by Amanda Vaill, Steve Paul, Paul Hendrickson, James McGrath Morris, and others, including such family members as his son John Hemingway and former personal secretary Valerie Hemingway. Assessed in detail are three complete biographies by James M. Hutchisson, Verna Kale, and Mary V. Dearborn. Here Curnutt explores how each biography markets itself as a “new” life of Hemingway when sensational discoveries in the archives that marked the 1980s have long been exhausted.
The subject of endless biographies, fictional depictions, and critical debate, Ernest Hemingway continues to command attention in popular culture and in literary studies. He remains both a definitive stylist of twentieth-century literature and a case study in what happens to an artist consumed by the spectacle of celebrity. The New Hemingway Studies examines how two decades of new-millennium scholarship confirm his continued relevance to an era that, on the surface, appears so distinct from his—one defined by digital realms, ecological anxiety, and globalization. It explores the various sources (print, archival, digital, and other) through which critics access Hemingway. Highlighting the latest critical trends, the contributors to this volume demonstrate how Hemingway's remarkably durable stories, novels, and essays have served as a lens for understanding preeminent concerns in our own time, including paranoia, trauma, iconicity, and racial, sexual, and national identities.