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Week 15

Remember that we also have the first revision workshop in the Capital Rehearsal Room at IATL (previously known as the Capital Centre) on Friday morning this week. Friday 10.00-12.00 — or Wednesday 14.00-16.00 in H356 if Friday is inconvenient for you.

Points for Discussion


  • Why did Gertrude Stein term Hemingway and his peers "the lost generation"? Consider the implications of the setting of this novel for the depiction of a "lost generation" that is leading an expatriate existence.
  • "Hemingway's anxious explorations of sexuality [is an emblem] in a wider epistemological shift occasioned in part by the mutability of the relations between gender and sexuality, and the attendant erosion of gender as an epistemological ground for judging culture and its artifacts." (Janet Lyon) Find textual examples of Hemingway's anxious exploration of sexuality and consider the further implications of this anxiety around gender and sexuality in the post-war era of modernity.  
  • "Hemingway, who frequented the racially mixed clubs of Chicago in the early 1920s, the first big Northern outlet for the blues, used blues talk of "two-timing papas" and "sweet jelly roll" in The Sun Also Rises, and his subject matter and aesthetic had striking affinities with the blues sensibility." (Ann Douglas) Do you agree with the proposition that The Sun Also Rises is similar to the blues sensibility?
  • The first person narrator, Jake, has suffered a physical "trauma" during World War 1.  Can he be described as suffering post-traumatic stress disorder?  To what extent do he and the other characters suffer from traumatisme morale, i.e. moral trauma or psychological trauma (see the late 19th-century work of Charcot whom Freud studied under in Paris).  Is this all due to the effects of the war, or does Hemingway's modernist text imply other causes for this condition?
  • "The novel’s tripartite structure marks out the three stages of the rite of passage which might restore Jake to immediacy, and through immediacy to manhood: separation from the banal, purposeless, inauthentic Paris life described in book I; a liminal phase, described in book II, during which identity can be stripped down and rebuilt, in Spain, at the festival in Pamplona; and a return, transfigured, to ordinary existence, in book III.  The map of Europe becomes a gigantic objective correlative.  To cross the border between France and Spain is to move from a mundane into a sacred realm.  But Jake disavows the aficion, the passion for the bullfight, which might have remasculinized him and rendered him whole again, when he introduces Bret to Pedro Montero; after that betrayal, the aficionados will not even speak to him.  The sacredness of Spain, its restorative power, is compromised by the network of boundaries and checkpoints which divide one part of it from another: a carabineer asks for fishing permits; a customs officer in Pamplona searches baggage; a verger stops Brett from entering a church because she has no hat.  An elsewhere thus divided from itself is no longer elsewhere, no longer the crucible of psychic restoration." (David Trotter) Do you agree with this reading of the novel, with its emphasis on the importance of narrative structure, and its proposition about the significance of Spain in Jake's failed rite of passage?
  • "Both European wartime rhetoric and Western mythology support a culture of violence and virility. Ernest Hemingway, along with his Parisian associate Michel Leiris, both draw extensively on the rhetoric (and reality) of the Spanish corrida de toros to materialize tensions between the heroic idealism and devirilized reality of Interbellum masculinity.

    Consider this explanation of the significance of tauromachy in Leiris’ autobiography L’Age d’homme [Manhood]:

    Quand j’assiste à une course de taureaux, j’ai tendance à m’identifier soit au taureau à l’instant où l’épée est plongée dans son corps, soit au matador qui risque de se faire tuer (peut-être émasculer ?) d’un coup de corne, au moment où il affirme le plus nettement sa virilité. (75)

     Trans. “When I attend a bullfight, I often identify myself either with the bull at the moment in which the sword is plunged into its body, or with the matador who runs the risk of being killed (perhaps emasculated?) at a horn’s thrust, at the moment in which he most fully asserts his virility.”

    In the corrida the object of sacrifice can never be female: the masculine focus of the ritual lies in its dual sympathies, the struggle for virility in the face of overwhelming emasculation.

    A narrative reticence which is the literary sign of psychological castration informs Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Jake Barnes is literally impotent through either physical or psychological castration, thereby unable to fulfil his love for Parisian socialite Brett Ashley. They spend much time together, but the narrative evokes his psychological trauma, how they are so close, yet so distant: ‘I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. Then I couldn’t keep away from it, and I started to think about Brett and all the rest of it went away… Then all of a sudden I started to cry’ (27). Jake Barnes’ situation arguably exerts the great pathos of the novel: because of his physical impotency caused by his war experiences, he is a clear failure according to the patriarchal expectations of masculinity. Just moments later, however, glib, elusive dialogue between the pair seems to belie the hopelessness of the earlier narration:

     ‘Good night, darling.’

    ‘Don’t be sentimental.’

    ‘You make me ill.’

    We kissed good night and Brett shivered. ‘I’d better go,’ she said. ‘Good night, darling.’

    ‘You don’t have to go.’

    ‘Yes.’ (29/30)

    The unspoken personal stories are extremely powerful in this novel, but we gain insights through the first-person narrative." (James Bradbury – former EN304 student)

    Consider the effects that narrative reticence and the presence of unspoken personal stories have on your responses as a reader.


Further Reading

James Nagel. "Brett and the Other Women in The Sun Also Rises." The Cambridge Companion to Hemingway. Ed. Scott Donaldson. Cambridge University Press, 1996.


See 1957 Movie Trailer:

Please look at Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan's chapter on Narration before the revision session.