Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice.

Author:Ciasullo, Ann M.
Position:Book review

Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice. Edited by Lawrence R. Broer and Gloria Holland. (Tuscaloosa and London: The University of Alabama Press, 2002. Pp. xiv + 353, introduction, notes, works cited, index.)

As any scholar even vaguely familiar with the critical dialogue on Ernest Hemingway's life and work knows, "Papa's" relationship with and literary treatment of women has, for decades now, been fraught with controversy. His biography reveals a man who, despite four marriages and numerous affairs, found neither stability nor lasting satisfaction in his relationships with women. His short stories and novels likewise reveal an ambivalence toward and distrust of women--sentiments so intensely expressed in some of his works that they have long been considered proof of the author's sexism. Indeed, from Brett Ashley to Catherine Bourne, the "Hemingway Bitch" has become a literary icon, read by some feminist critics as both an embodiment of Papa's misogyny and a reinforcement of the negative female stereotypes that have been perpetuated for centuries. Given Hemingway's seeming inability to portray women as independent, strong, and sympathetic, as well as his iconic status as the quintessential "man's man," why should women continue to read, teach, and write about his work? Why, if at all, should we pay attention to Papa and his patriarchal ways?

The answers to these questions can be found in Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice, edited by Lawrence A. Broer and Gloria Holland. Broer and Holland have assembled an impressive array of seventeen critical essays--all authored, as the title suggests, by female critics--that intervene in "forty years of often superficial or misguided interpretations of Hemingway's treatment of women and gender" (ix). Rather than dismissing both Hemingway and his work as sexist, interpreting his female characters as one-dimensional and unsympathetic, or deeming the author undeserving of a female readership and critical base, the scholars included in this volume recognize, address, and grapple with the complexity of Hemingway's relationship with women, both real and fictional. Indeed, by "argu[ing] cogently for the central role of women in the Hemingway canon," the essays in this collection "expand and deepen our appreciation of gender issues in Hemingway's novels and stories, and in his life as a whole" (xiii). It is worth noting, however, that the authors' "appreciation" of...

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