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Essay History Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Hemingway, Literalism, and Transgender Reading

By Valerie Rohy, 2011

Hemingway’s manuscripts for the novel, expansive but unfinished at his death in 1961, showed the depth of his interest in homosexuality and the mutability of gender. As published, The Garden of Eden describes a young American couple on their honeymoon in Spain and the south of France in the 1920s; David is a writer distracted by his wife’s exploration of masculinity, racialized fantasy, and lesbianism. Early in the narrative, Catherine surprises her husband with a haircut “cropped as short as a boy’s” (14) explaining “I’m a girl, But now I’m a boy too” (15). Without a concerted effort to articulate the schism between those readings or to assign retrograde premises to the past, the notion of Hemingway’s femininity as pathological has continued into the twenty-first century, despite the presence of more progressive voices in Hemingway scholarship and in modernist studies. Although both feminist and queer readers might well take issue with accounts of Hemingway’s masculinity as compromised,…

1 thought on “Hemingway, Literalism, and Transgender Reading”

  1. This is all interesting, but it’s a totally subjective reinterpretation of Hemingway, made through the lens of today’s gender politics.
    It’s academically interesting, perhaps meaningful to today’s crowd, but it’s not the context in which it was written.

    And: motivation matters. Hemingway isn’t thinking about anything you are talking about. Any more than you can look at Jefferson’s relationship with his slaves the way we do now, or confederate statues in Atlanta. Society is context, and the society is different.

    When a woman cuts get hair short in 1920, it’s related to today’s gender politics, but more meaningfully thought of as a precursor, an antecedent. You can not look at it as directly relevant to today’s politics and context.

    Well, you can, but it’s a distorted misinterpretation.

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