This study explores the representations of war in the work of Ernest Hemingway from the interdisciplinary perspective of Cultural Studies, specifically in terms of the complex relationships between history, memory, and representation. At the same time, the study advances a reconsideration of Hemingway’s oeuvre by repositioning it at the juncture between modernism and postmodernism, thus extending a critical stance that has been applied to other authors traditionally lodged in the modernist canon. One such example, which I capitalize on in my research, is the critical work of the recent decades on the writings of William Faulkner. This strand of Faulkner criticism identifies elements of postmodernist avant-garde within the author’s modernist experimentalism. I therefore insist in my own research on the two major coordinates of Hemingway’s writings – his existentialism and his minimalism. While they have been explored by Hemingway critics to some extent, they have been comparatively neglected in systematic analyses of the representations of war. Bridging this gap is, in my view, the main critical contribution of this research.
In tracing the change in attitude towards war throughout Hemingway’s oeuvre, I have structured the study as an attempt to answer a question which has been approached by literary critics only marginally, namely, whether it is possible to speak of a development through time in the representation of war in this author’s writings. And, if yes, what would the characteristics of this development be ?
In considering existing critical studies and biographies but also, in a New Historicism vein, the stories told by official histories, I propose an interpretation of Hemingway’s war fiction from the perspective of identity constructions – that is, by focusing on the ways in which identities are transformed and/or rediscovered depending on war’s effects on individual conscience, first and foremost through the experience of violence. I use psychoanalytical, postfeminist and gender criticism to analyze the severe imbalances or disruptions in the development of personality, the strategies through which the self struggles to cope with tensions generated by the war, survivor traumas, the distinctions between the roles played by combatants and non-combatants in the representations of war and the manner in which the meaning of trauma develops in their respective cases. I also discuss the manner in which the war experience in Hemingway’s fiction is associated to femininity (through the experience of independence, thus turning upside down the existing stereotypes) and to masculinity (through the experiences of intimacy and disability) in a successful bid to offer a positive definition to the individual human being. I trace this re-conceptualization in its chronological development.