Homo Americanus: Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Queer Masculinities

Homo Americanus: Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Queer Masculinities

Homo Americanus: Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Queer Masculinities

Homo Americanus: Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Queer Masculinities

Synopsis

Though separated by only eleven years in age, Hemingway and Williams seem literary generations apart. Yet both authors bridged their modernist/postmodernist divide through mutual examinations of the polemics behind heteromasculinity, Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises and Williams in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This book explores the two works many sociopolitical, literary, and intertextual ties, in particular how the conclusion of one echoes that of the other, not just in its irony but also in its implication of the audiences participation in engendering the social rules responsible for the protagonists struggle to negotiate his sexual identity. Hemingway's Sun shares more with Williams' Cat than just a similar ending, however. Both works explore more broadly the construction of a queer masculinity, where the parameters that define masculinity and sexuality grow as unstable and irresolute as the frontier during a war or the line of scrimmage during a football game.

Excerpt

“The best I can say for myself is that I worked like hell.”

—Tennessee Williams, Notebooks

“Perversion’s dull and old-fashioned.”

—Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden

“Tennessee has never met Castro since; and he never saw Heming
way again after this account of two accidental meetings simply be
cause they happened. Artistically, nothing came of them; but they
may contribute, to future histories of American literature, a bizarre
and frivolous footnote.”

—Kenneth Tynan, “Papa and the Playwright”

ERNEST HEMINGWAY AND TENNESSEE WILLIAMS SURELY MAKE strange bedfellows. What, if anything, could the heteromasculine novelist and the homoeffeminate playwright have in common beyond a mutual distrust bordering on acrimony? British theater critic Kenneth Tynan asked a similar question in 1959: “I often play the game [“Imaginary Conversations”] in my mind, and one of the pairings with which I have often toyed is that of Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. How would the great extrovert react to the great introvert, the biggame hunter to the hot-house plant, the virility symbol to the student of deviation?”

This book is an attempt to answer that question.

Though separated by only eleven years of age, Hemingway and Williams are a literary generation apart—Hemingway, the modernist, World War I writer, and Williams, the (post)modernist playwright more closely aligned with World War II. To be sure, Hemingway’s career reached its summit with his novels of the 1920s and 1930s, whereas Williams’s fame came with his plays of the 1940s and 1950s. But Williams was already writing at the time Hemingway had achieved his fame, just as Hemingway continued writing throughout the 1950s when Williams reigned on Broadway. In short, while a world seemingly separates them in time and space, Hemingway and Williams had more in common than either publicly admitted or perhaps would have ever ad-

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