The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction

The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction

The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction

The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction

Synopsis

""There are no second acts in American lives." F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous pronouncement, an epitaph for his own foreshortened career, points out a pattern of imaginative blight common to writers of the Lost Generation. As John W. Crowley shows in this engaging study, excessive drinking had a crucial effect on the frequently diminished fortunes of these writers. Indeed, the modernists - especially the men - were a decidedly drunken lot. The first extended literary analysis to take account of recent work by social historians on the temperance movement, this book examines the relationship between intoxication and addiction in American life and letters during the first half of the twentieth century. In explaining the transition from Victorian to modern paradigms of heavy drinking, Crowley focuses on representative fictions. He considers the historical formation of "alcoholism" and earlier concepts of habitual drunkenness and their bearing on the social construction of gender roles. He also defines the "drunk narrative," a mode of fiction that expresses the conjunction of modernism and alcoholism in a pervasive ideology of despair - the White Logic of John Barleycorn, London's nihilistic lord of the spirits." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

"There are no second acts in American lives." F. Scott Fitzgerald's grim pronouncement has often been cited by those who try to account for the depressing frequency of attenuated careers and imaginative diminution among the American modernists. Budd Schulberg, for instance, ponders the all-toorepresentative case of Ernest Hemingway: "When a man can write no better, think no better, know no more, after he is thirty-five than before, especially a man with the unique artistic equipment of Hemingway, are we not entitled, even obligated, again to ask, why? What happened?" For Schulberg, an erstwhile Marxist, the answer must lie in the noxious culture of American capitalism. The decline of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and others can be attributed, he believes, to the cult of the bitch goddess, Success, to whom American writers have ritually been sacrificed--hyped and then destroyed by the engines of publicity.

There may, in fact, be something to this line of analysis. But it overlooks another important factor--one so conspicuous that it's almost invisible. Although Schulberg notes many other things in common to "the lives of Sinclair Lewis . . .

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