Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

“The road bare and white”: Hemingway, Europe and the Artifice of Ritualised Space

Fraser David Mann

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2018.31.02

Abstract

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (1926) and A Farewell to Arms (1929) are novels in which imagined space and material place interact, collide and contradict. Despite both texts being set in Europe, Hemingway’s prose reveals American anxieties regarding war and identity. His protagonists are emasculated by war and alienated from the myths that have generated singular ideals of American masculinity. The novels imbue European landscapes with ritual and symbolism that create new imagined landscapes on which to perform and reassert this lost identity. Simultaneously, they are texts that expose the artifice of such performative endeavours. These oppositions and dissonances are read here through the prism of Foucault’s paradigmatic “heterotopia”. Foucault suggests that we are in an “epoch of juxtaposition” in which our conflicting understanding of space and place “cannot be superimposed”. This paper argues that Hemingway’s fiction offers a consciously empty form of symbolic space. The failure of the imagination and the knowing artifice of text suggest that the postwar heterotopia leaves no place for material manifestations of mythic autonomy, agency or free will. Hemingway imposes a distinctly American aesthetic on his European experiences. The now mythical frontier provides a mythic locale for the rituals of war to be performed. In this sense, war is heterotopian in its competing material and mythic constructions. Hemingway’s fiction explores the liminal gaps between such certainties. This analysis moves from the vibrant streets of Paris and the whirling chaos of Milanese nightlife to ‘clean’ Alpine lakes, the reductive simplicities of Spanish life and the violent horrors of the Caporetto Retreat. The rituals performed in Europe provide a chance to relocate lost American identities but this process is ultimately revealed as empty and futile. These are textual spaces that are themselves heterotopian. Their prose experiments suggest sub-textual depth yet simultaneously reveal emptiness and futility lying beneath the sparse and economical tone.

Keywords

Hemingway; Landscape; Foucault; Heterotopia; Ritual

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2018.31.02

Copyright (c) 2018 Fraser David Mann

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