The Gun and the Pen: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and the Fiction of Mobilization

The Gun and the Pen: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and the Fiction of Mobilization

by Keith Gandal
     
 

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Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner stand as the American voice of the Great War. But was it warfare that drove them to write? Not according to Keith Gandal, who argues that the authors' famous postwar novels were motivated not by their experiences of the horrors of war but rather by their failure to have those experiences. These

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Overview

Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner stand as the American voice of the Great War. But was it warfare that drove them to write? Not according to Keith Gandal, who argues that the authors' famous postwar novels were motivated not by their experiences of the horrors of war but rather by their failure to have those experiences. These 'quintessential' male American novelists of the 1920s were all, for different reasons, deemed unsuitable as candidates for full military service or command. As a result, Gandal contends, they felt themselves emasculated—not, as the usual story goes, due to their encounters with trench warfare, but because they got nowhere near the real action. Bringing to light previously unexamined Army records, including new information about the intelligence tests, The Gun and the Pen demonstrates that the authors' frustrated military ambitions took place in the forgotten context of the unprecedented U.S. mobilization for the Great War, a radical effort to transform the Army into a meritocratic institution, indifferent to ethnic and class difference (though not to racial difference). For these Lost Generation writers, the humiliating failure vis-à-vis the Army meant an embarrassment before women and an inability to compete successfully in a rising social order, against a new set of people. The Gun and the Pen restores these seminal novels to their proper historical context and offers a major revision of our understanding of America's postwar literature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An innovative study." —Choice

"To our significant if doomed scholarly efforts to unknot the complex tangle of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and war, we have new help in the form of Keith Gandal's The Gun and the Pen." —The Hemingway Review

"Gandal provides a radically new and convincing critique . . . I highly recommend The Gun and the Pen to students of history and literature alike as a superb example of what a multidisciplinary study can accomplish."-The Journal of Military History

"Gandal is the first person to see the relevance of the experience of mobilization to American fiction and he has—with great brilliance as well as originality—demonstrated exactly the kind of difference it made to some of the central texts of the 20s and beyond. The Gun and the Pen will make an important difference to our understanding of American modernism."—Walter Benn Michaels, University of Illinois at Chicago

"With highly original and insightful readings of three of our most canonical fictions of the postwar era—The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, and The Sound and the Fury—The Gun and the Pen provides rich new materials that document a revised, more accurate account of America's mobilization efforts in World War I."—Jackson R. Bryer, University of Maryland

"The Gun and the Pen offers a bold and entirely original interpretation of the leading American modernist writers and their greatest works. Gandal uses archival evidence to great advantage in showing how the war culture of the early twentieth century, with its corresponding revolution in perceptions of sexuality, ethnic identity, and meritocracy, was integral to the era's literary masterpieces."—Eric J. Sundquist, University of California, Los Angeles

"An original and paradigm-changing analysis." — Richard Slotkin, Wesleyan University

"Engaging and intelligent... Extraordinary and utterly thorough... A significant study about the importance of mobilization on the fiction of the post-World War I American modernist period." —— The F. Scott Fitzgerald Review

"Few who finish this study will find themselves in disagreement with Gandal's provocative thesis. Indeed, this is a book likely to change our conception of American World War I literature-or, more specifically, the relationship between the Great War and American Modernism-for good." —War, Literature & the Arts

"Keith Gandal's The Gun and the Pen is an ambitious and important book that deserves the scrutiny of a wide scholarly audience. He sets out to do nothing less than to redefine critical understanding of American fiction beginning with the novels of the 1920s involving soldiers and other literary characters affected by World War I...[it] deserves to be read, discussed, and debated widely; it adds new depth to the study of not only war novels but of twentieth-century American literature at large." —Studies in the Novel

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199744572
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
05/06/2010
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Keith Gandal is Professor of English at City College of New York. He is the author of The Virtues of the Vicious: Jacob Riis, Stephen Crane and the Spectacle of the Slum and Class Representation in Modern Fiction and Film.

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