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Hemingway and Anorexia: A New Lens.

The connection between the literary aesthetics of high modernism and the disease anorexia nervosa is hardly an obvious one. The publication of Leslie Heywood's Dedication to Hunger: The Anorexic Aesthetic in Modern Culture in 1996, however, made such a connection undeniable. (1) In the course of this ground-breaking book, Heywood identifies the physical condition popularly known as anorexia as a symptom of a deeper "anorexic logic" manifest across Western culture, which makes access to a masculine world of power and achievement conditional on the renunciation of a body marked as soft, feminine and weak. A similar logic has been more recently affirmed by Isabelle Meuret, who suggests anorexia is an "articulation of young women's deepest fears and angers through the medium of her body" that crystallises "the frustrations and difficulties encountered on her quest for achievement as a female in the public sphere" (35). Meuret, like Heywood, also understands this logic as pervading literary aesthetics, concluding that anorexia "is a semiotic pathology whose signs contaminate the written pages" (97). Heywood, however, even more dramatically claims that the aesthetic ideals of literary high modernism may have been the primary means through which this anorexic logic (and, with it, the disease anorexia itself) has been propagated. She explains that in both the disease anorexia and the anorexic aesthetic of literary modernism, "there is a rejection and will to eliminate... a will to transcendence, and to shape the 'base material' into a 'higher,' masculine form" (61). According to Heywood, this logic was powerfully reinscribed in society by modernist authors who, as part of an elite group, shaped and subsequently proliferated this aesthetic. She draws on Franz Kafka, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot among other writers for support, citing their exaltation of hard, masculine, impersonal form as evidence of the operation of an anorexic logic. The rejection of flesh in "A Hunger Artist," the absolute minimalism of imagism, and the self-proclaimed idolisation of impersonality in the aesthetic ideals of Eliot all provide apt examples of such a propagation.

One key modernist author, of course, is conspicuously absent from this. Ernest Hemingway is not mentioned in Heywood's text despite his apparent embodiment of modernist masculinity and minimalist prose. The aim of this essay is not simply to add Hemingway to the catalog of authors which Hey-wood identifies as propagating modernisms anorexic logic but rather to argue that Hemingway was both a perpetrator and a victim of this logic. There can be no doubt that Hemingway, like Eliot, Pound and Kafka, inscribed this logic through his prose and, it could be argued, his life in general. In recent years, a number of scholars have posited that the author held an androgynous understanding of gender as well as the overt self-fashioned machismo image that lead him, like the female anorexic, to embody the hard, cut-away aesthetic of literary modernism. However, there is seemingly an element of this anorexic logic that Heywood fails to discuss; that is, its potential to also take males as its victim. Men--Elliot, Pound, Kafka--are identified by Heywood as the executors of this logic, and women--Jean Rhys being Heywood's primary example--are identified as the victims, and rightly so. I am in no way suggesting that Hemingway, or indeed any other male, suffered as women did in this period; I merely wish to provide a new lens through which to observe how this logic operates that offers a new and compelling reason for both Hemingway's own obsession with his weight and his compulsion to embody a masculine image. In doing so, I will draw primarily from biographic material, while also supplementing my argument with brief references to some of his key texts, most notably "Big Two Hearted River." After first outlining the case for Hemingway as a propagator of anorexic logic, I will then offer a more holistic picture, demonstrating that the author was simultaneously a perpetrator and a victim of the logic so pervasive in literary modernism.

Anorexic Logic and Hemingway: A Propagation

I do not think it would be too bold to claim that there is no literary figure more closely associated with the machismo image than Ernest Hemingway. In a recent episode of the popular sitcom New Girl, one of the central characters, Nick Miller, is writing a novel. Stuck somewhere between laziness and writers block, he decides he needs to emulate Hemingway and subsequently goes out in search of masculine adventure. His mission culminates with getting drunk at a zoo, but the fact remains: Hemingway's name is synonymous with the machismo image, representing a certain brand of masculinity in popular culture. As Lawrence Mazzeno confirms, "more than fifty years after his death, Hemingway's name remains a kind of shorthand, immediately conjuring up images of the macho, hard-driving, hard-drinking daredevil who lives life to the fullest" (1). One only needs a cursory glance at Hemingways list of hobbies, which also happen to coincide with the subject matter of his texts (fishing, big-game hunting, bull-fighting), to find evidence of this image.

While Hemingways embodiment of machismo is beyond doubt, scholars since 1986 have been intrigued by the way in which this image was self-fashioned. Masculinity is not, as Daniel Worden observes, "a natural way of acting in the world" or "the outgrowth of anatomical maleness" (110). Rather, it is something to be performed. Accordingly, the question is not whether this performance happened--of that much we can be sure--but whether Hemingway knowingly constructed his popular identity, and to what purpose.

In his seminal biographies, Michael Reynolds makes his position very clear, suggesting that "early in his career... Hemingway began revising and editing what would become his longest and most well-known work: the legend of his own life, where there was never a clear line between fiction and reality" (272). This blurring between fiction and reality is a point Worden develops further as he argues that the celebrity persona of modernist writers is no less of an aesthetic work than their texts (108). In this regard, "celebrity might be less of a mask or burden under which the "real" Hemingway struggled but a corollary to his aesthetic project" (108). The motive for Hemingway's self-fashioning may have been part of his marketing strategy. Marilyn Elkins also pursues this logic. In her "The Fashion of Machismo," she argues that for most of his career, Hemingway "was able to regard himself as such an object and extricate himself from a setting or situation, scrutinize the image he was presenting with regard to the desired social response" (94), particularly through his fashion and minimalist prose. In a similar vein to Heywood's analysis, Elkins suggests, in specific reference to the American mindset, that literary and artistic culture is viewed as feminine and men who participate in it are "effeminate and unimportant to the 'real world'" (95). Accordingly, America's greatest public writer had to ensure that he was known as a "man's man who was easily recognisable as a fearless sportsman and bon vivant" (95). Hemingway's machismo can therefore be understood as a fantastic career move as he benefited from and reinforced the gendered binaries of his period.

In this light, the minimalist prose for which Hemingway is famous is not simply a successful formal experimentation but a part of his self-fashioned authorial image. It is this form that also connects Hemingway with the literary ideals of high modernism, and, subsequently, the indirect subject of Heywood's critique. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway writes, "if I started to write elaborately... I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written up" (22). This is a self-conscious attempt, as evident in his prose, of removing the excess, the fat, and the personal, all that which is associated with the feminine. In Hemingway, therefore, we can observe Heywood's anorexic logic in operation; that is, "the clear trajectory between the anorexic body as an individual or cultural idea and the commonplace ideals of modernist texts: clean form, the emergence of art through the formal technique of cutting, and the isolation of the artist from the mass consciousness of the modern world" (64). In "Big Two Hearted River," we perhaps find the strongest example of this aesthetic in operation. One section reads:
Nick was happy as he crawled inside the tent. He had not been unhappy
all day. This was different though. Now things were done. There had
been this to do. Now it was done. It had been a hard trip. He was very
tired. That was done. He had made his camp. He was settled. Nothing
could touch him. It was a good place to camp. He was there, in the good
place. He was in his home where he had made it. Now he was hungry.

There is an obvious rejection of adjectives, adverbs, or descriptive language of any kind. The flesh is cut away and only "hard," declarative sentences remain. The narratorial voice is also close to vacant, without emotion or bias, simply stating what is and what is not. Nick is happy or "not unhappy." Nick is in a good place or he is not. This conscious effort to establish a level of impersonality is so prevalent throughout Hemingway's works that it is now synonymous with his name. (2) One may also point to the subject matter as further evidence of a masculine logic in operation: a lone man, returned from war, travelling across the countryside in search of a place to camp and a river to fish. Meaning is found in this text through isolation, through a separation from mass culture. My point, after all of this, is relatively simple: no matter what advances recent scholarship has made in regard to his motivation, Hemingway perpetuates the anorexic logic embodied in literary modernism. In his self-fashioned machismo image that quite obviously highlighted the masculine over the feminine and his textual ideals, which only further reinforced this image, Hemingway is another fitting subject for Heywood's critique.

Change of Tide: Hemingway through a New Lens

While it is beyond doubt that Hemingway benefited from his self-fashioned machismo image, recent developments in Hemingway criticism bring to light fresh readings of Hemingway's texts and biography that suggest new motivations for his overt embodiment of masculinity. Hemingway's Garden of Eden, published posthumously in 1986, includes lesbian characters and androgynous themes. The novel, understandably, sparked a rapid reconsideration of his life and work. Kenneth Lynn's 1987 seminal biography Hemingway still proposed the writer to be afflicted from trauma but, as Mazzeno explains, "the 'wound' Lynn focused on was not the one Hemingway received on the battlefield but one he experienced as a child raised by a lesbian-leaning, emotionally conflicted mother whose treatment lead Hemingway to doubt his gender, causing him great anxiety that he never really outgrew" (141). As Lynn asks, "Caught between his mother's wish to conceal his masculinity and her eagerness to encourage it, was it any wonder that he was anxious and insecure?" (45). Mark Spilka's Hemingway's Quarrel with Androgyny published soon after extended Lynn's work and radically reinterpreted Hemingway's understanding of gender. What took place next has been called by Debra Moddelmog "the most extensive re-evaluation" of a writer's reputation and life "ever undertaken" (qtd. in Linde). Critics re-read his texts in light of these new ideas, finding complex portrayals of female characters, a questioning of gendered stereotypes and potential homosexual themes. As M.D.A Linde explains, "the Hemingway myth--the indisputable masculine life--is exploded, for his outbursts of manliness were only a sign of the anxiety he felt in relation to the gender he was expected to fulfil" (21). Against this critical backdrop, "Big Two Hearted River" can be understood as not simply about Nick Adams overcoming his trauma from war (as was close to universally accepted), but an escape from a desire to please his mother, with his tent becoming an alternative home (Lamb 162). Since this change of tide in criticism, the animosity from feminist critics has subsided and in its place has risen a complex understanding of a man frustrated by the gendered binaries of his day. Accordingly, it is now widely acknowledged that Hemingway's overt machismo image was not formed solely out of a negative view of women, a desire to uphold a code, or to benefit his career. While all three of these aspects still remain observable in his life, there also is little doubt that his machismo was a defence mechanism of some sort.

Interestingly, Leslie Heywood discusses the male anorexic in literary high modernism. The West has a long tradition of negatively contrasting "matter" with the spiritual realm (a tradition commonly traced back to Plato's dualism). In the Victorian era, it was women who embodied spirituality through the overcoming of their bodies, which was a status men could not attain due to their involvement in brutal working environments. In modernism, however, we see a reaction against this: the male textual body became associated with the ability to transcend matter and the female body became associated with excess--the Eve who stole from the tree and lead man into temptation. For Heywood, "the woman is placed in the traditional position of consumer/enchantress/temptress and is figured in modernist texts as the non-anorexic femme fatale" and "the male becomes the anorexic, the figure of resistance" (70). The woman is transformed into an impediment, something to be cut away, in what can be considered a "secularised reference to the fall" (70). Haywood sustains this logic to suggest that this cutting away of the feminine becomes a necessary precondition for the creation of art, as well as an aesthetic goal for art itself. In specific reference to Eliot, she argues through a close reading of certain sections of "Wasteland," (particularly through the character Fresca who, as a non-anorexic, is cast as an ideal for women, but subsequently is too emotional and unrestrained to create poetry of worth) that he projects "all 'undesirable' qualities onto the nonanorexic female body to maintain the male body as the figure for the anorexic artist" (93). The result is that "anorexia is criticised in the guise of women but is set up as a necessary ideal for men" (94). To create, to enter the world of the individual artist, both men and women are compelled to embody an anorexic aesthetic, "the hard/thin/clear/male phallically productive body" that marks a transition to a higher "form of phallic creativity after it has effectively "cut away" and cast off the soft/fat/murky/female phallically threatening body" (Heywood 93-94). As is obvious, women are the primary victims of such logic. However, it seems a viable conclusion that men, in order to maintain this hard/thin/clear aesthetic, are potential victims also (even while they simultaneously propagate such a logic). Thus, it is likely that more than one of these male modernist authors suffered from anorexia and/or significant anxiety over weight and body image.

Recent work in masculinity studies offers further support to this thesis, confirming a similar anxiety in the early twentieth century over male identity. Gerald Izenberg has observed that feminist scholarship rightly analyzed modernism's patriarchal "construction," or deformation, of female identity, but more recently "it has been recognised that gender identities are mutually implicating, and that in an era when men still largely dominated cultural production, changing images of the feminine were reactions to disturbances in male identity" (2-3). Natalya Lusty suggests something similar in her introduction to Modernism and Masculinity, citing Marianna DeKoven's work to argue that "modernist cultural expression as simultaneously radical and reactionary, as both old and new, as 'rich and strange'" (8). Lusty further claims that this double movement produced a distinctly gendered reaction, with the result that, in Dekoven's words, "male modernists generally feared the loss of hegemony the change they desired might entail, while female modernists feared punishment for that utter change" (qtd. in Lusty 8). It is this simultaneous fear of loss and desire for change that can be observed in Hemingway. A self-fashioned machismo image and decidedly masculine prose is held in tension with a questioning of gender roles and a blurring of the lines between gender altogether. This compulsion to maintain a certain brand of masculinity in his life and work does not free Hemingway from culpability, but it certainly should allow him a certain level of compassion from critics. It is also worth noting that these studies in no way contradict Heywood's conception of anorexic logic; rather, they show that the gender dynamics underpinning this logic were not exclusive in whom they negatively affected. Here, I want to extend this line of inquiry to argue that one of these negative affects was that Hemingway suffered from anxiety about his own weight, leading to an unhealthy fixation on hunger.

A number of scholars have pointed to weight fluctuations throughout Hemingway's life, something he also documents himself in A Moveable Feast. Peter Hays references Hemingway's younger years, observing that he lost weight in 1925 and kept it off all the way through to the summer of 1926, allegedly going from 200 pounds to under 175 (230). Noting that Hemingway's weight varied widely over the years, Sebastian Dieguez concludes that Hemingway suffered from "episodes of anorexia" in his later life (181). While affirming Dieguez's bold claim that Hemingway suffered from anorexia may be too bold, Hemingway's fixation on his weight is undeniable, most famously evidenced by the recording of his own weight on the bathroom wall during his time at the Finca (Kale 144).

Hemingway's consistent "hungering" is also telling. As briefly alluded to in the excerpt above from "Big," Hemingway displayed an obsession with hunger that can be observed in a number of his works. (3) This is most evident in his semi-autobiographical work A Moveable Feast in which hunger is close to ubiquitous. In his article "Hemingway as Hunger Artist," Leo Hamalian observes that on almost every page of A Moveable Feast, hunger is a preoccupation for the young writer, suggesting that "Hemingway was always hungering and his hunger was a physical force that arose from his abdomen and haunted his mind" (5). This hunger functioned in a number of ways for Hemingway, at times viewed negatively: Hemingway coaches himself at one point to avoid "hunger thinking," what Ott and Cirno define as "harebrained thoughts emanating from a hysterical, food-deprived mind" (xii). Elsewhere it is understood positively, as Ann McCulloch and Pavlina Radia highlight in their suggestion that art is a form of hunger for Hemingway in Feast, a way "of curbing appetite, of fleshing out by omission" that works as a "sharpener of artistic experience" (ix). When Hemingway remarks that "all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry" (65), such conclusions seem more than viable. While there is no doubt that hunger functioned in these ways for Hemingway, and that this yet again makes him the indirect subject of Heywood's critique, (4) few have taken this literal hungering to its logical end. When it is highly likely Hemingway was not in fact as poor as he made out in the period when he wrote Feast, and almost certainly not poor enough to have to neglect food, (5) it is not unreasonable to suggest that this hungering is related to anxieties over his own weight and the poverty provided a suitable cover. Tellingly, Hemingway remarks in Feast that "hunger is healthy and the pictures do look better when you are hungry" (68).

In consideration all of the evidence above, it seems clear that Hemingway, at the very least, experienced considerable anxiety over his weight and suffered from an unhealthy obsession with hunger. Tellingly, Hemingway's case is not isolated. In Kafka, who is identified by Heywood as a subject for study, we observe a similar logic in operation. In a 1987 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, Manfred Fichter compelling argues that Kafka suffered from anorexia, drawing on his consistent thinness, fasting, asceticism, disturbed psychosexual and gender identity development, and depressive personality as evidence. Even more telling are Heywood's own comments. She speaks at length about the way Kafka suffered, being caught between an engagement with the world and his need as an artist who, in order to write, "must be detached from the world" and an "anorexic" (80). Heywood further comments that Kafka denies himself worldly happiness "just as the anorexic renounces food, as well as other forms of happiness" (80). Yet, after this long passage, she concludes: "my point is not that Kafka was an anorexic, but rather that the frame of mind central to the anorexic logic is also central to the canonical modernist ideals about literary creativity" (80).

I hope the irony, or at least omission of a logical step, is obvious here. Heywood has noted both the way in which the anorexic logic of modernism highlighted an anorexic aesthetic as the goal for the male artist (as has already been suggested in reference to Eliot), as well as the way in which this logic caused Kafka to suffer, yet she does not conclude that such suffering may lead to the physical disorder of anorexia in males, or even push male artists to a state of insecurity that results in overt, false shows of masculinity (as seen in Hemingway). Although Kafka's ideas about creativity may have lead to the further propagation of an anorexic logic, he was also sufferer and victim. My argument for Hemingway is no different. His own obsession with food and hungering, varied weight throughout his life, and his desperate cause to maintain his machismo image can be understood as the logical end to an anorexic logic that was in operation in literary modernism. Consequently, his fixation on his weight can be understood as a literal embodiment of the anorexic aesthetic that governed writing in this period.

Perhaps the best evidence for Hemingway's struggle with maintaining the aesthetic ideals posited by an anorexic logic can be observed in the original ending to "Big Two Hearted River." Later published in The Nick Adam Stories, this ending meditates on the act of writing itself, an ending that was cut because, in Hemingway's words, it was "mental conversation" and "shit" (Selected Letters 133). In it, he remarks, "It was hard to be a great writer if you loved the world and living in it and special people. It was hard when you loved so many places. Then you were healthy and felt good and were having a good time and what the hell" ("On Writing" 238). He later explains that in order to write like Cezanne, who was an idol of his, "you had to do it from inside yourself," and further, that "he (speaking of himself) felt almost holy about it." This "was deadly serious," he further writes, and "you could do it if you would fight it out" (239). The anorexic logic in operation here, I hope, is obvious. He can only transcend the flesh and feel "holy about it," by producing art from inside himself, which, for Hemingway, was a deadly serious fight. Even though it torments him, he is compelled to cut away culture and society, which as Heywood argues is gendered feminine, to create. Hemingway is suffering, like Kafka, at the hands of a logic that insists he must uphold a masculine image in order to be a successful writer, even as he simultaneously participates in the logic as he does so. It is this insistence, I argue, that led to his embodiment of an anorexic aesthetic, a transformation of his person into a textual body that frees him once and for all from the critique of culture.

At the heart of my argument here is the claim that these modernist authors were both the creators and the products of this logic; simultaneously propagators and sufferers. Despite Heywood's argument that the gendered binaries that inform anorexic logic have been in existence in the Western mind since the inception of classical Greek philosophy, (6) she surprisingly does not concede that these authors were the products of such a mode of thinking. While it is undeniable that they powerfully reinscribed this logic in Western society through their textual ideals, it seems naive to believe that they can be held solely responsible for a cultural movement, or that these values were completely their own creation. (7) After all, masculinity and its associated attributes, do not exist within a person (e.g. Hemingway), but are a construct to be performed (Waldhorn 5). It is certainly understandable why Heywood does not make this point (as it is not the focus of her book), but it is clear these authors, namely Hemingway, also suffered as a result of such a logic.

So What?: Implications of this Thesis

What does this mean for Hemingway criticism? Aside from a renewed understanding of his hungering which has already been discussed, it also provides a new lens through which to understand his minimalist form and self-fashioned masculine image. This in no way conflicts with the reasoning provided by Lynn, among others, that understands Hemingway's machismo persona as a product of his anxiety surrounding gender (particularly his own). It rather extends this line of criticism, affirming their idea that Hemingway was not upholding his code simply for enjoyment or self-gain. Furthermore, this lens can provide new light on some of his most famous texts.

Assessing "Big Two Hearted River" through the lens of Hemingway's struggle to uphold the masculine ideals of anorexic logic delivers a more complete understanding of the text. First, this lens enables a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. All critics concur that Nick Adams's venture into the wilderness is undertaken out of a position of brokenness and a desire to find a solution of some capacity. Moreover, it is also widely believed that Nick Adams is in many ways semi-autobiographical. Whether this brokenness is due to his anxiety surrounding issues of gender that arose in his childhood or from his experiences in the war, through the lens of anorexic logic we can understand why the protagonist feels that to find meaning he must isolate himself in the wilderness, a masculine environment, cut away the feminine, that is culture, and engage in fishing, a male-dominated sport. At one stage in his trek away from civilisation, the narrator gives an interesting insight into Nick's consciousness: "His muscles ached and the day was hot, but Nick felt happy. He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs. It was all back of him" (179). Through the lens of anorexic logic, these statements find significance beyond simple escapism; there is a paradox present that points towards the anxiety Hemingway felt about the act of writing. While his protagonist enters the wilderness, temporarily cutting away his ties to culture and other people and even the "need" to write and think, Hemingway himself is writing. And even as he does so, he recognises the need to write as an impediment to happiness. He is torn between cutting away "everything" and leaving it all "behind," even as he remains in the world of culture, in the realm of the "feminine."

Second, and closely related to the above, this lens enables a deeper understanding of Hemingway's minimalist form, as well as a compelling framework to understand his editorial choices. I have already connected Hemingway's minimalist style with the anorexic logic of modernism and in doing so briefly discussed the conflict Hemingway felt in the act of writing with reference to "On Writing" (the original ending to "Big"). Hemingway, a product of his times, felt that cutting away the feminine was a precondition for the creation of art. The original ending to this short story centres on Nick reflecting on the creation of art, and particularly the act of writing. One of the important new pieces of information we find in "On Writing" is that Nick is the author of two short stories ("Indian Camp" and "My Old Man") (237-38). The gap here is finally closed between author and protagonist. On this, Moddelmog interestingly concludes that Nick is used in the original ending by Hemingway to "run interference for him, to block out what he had disclosed about himself to himself (and others) in the writing of his fiction" (Moddelmog 610). In other words, Hemingway needed a surrogate to write openly passages of free association reflecting on the nature of art, the process of writing. His feelings about lost experiences and lost friends do not coincide with Hemingway's disciplined style or the masculine aesthetic that pervaded his era of high modernism. On one level, then, we are thankful this section was cut, since it would have been stylistically out of place. On another level, however, we have to question why it was initially included and, importantly, examine what took its place.

In contrast with the original version of "Big," in which Nick was overcome by his "needs" to think and write, he remains free of these compulsions in the published version. In their place, however, is a swamp. Mainstream scholarship, as already noted, places the "good" place and the swamp in the context of the war wound Hemingway received in World War I, and the desire to avoid the swamp is, in Arthur Waldhorn's eyes (who tellingly writes The Reader's Guide to Ernest Hemingway), a conscious avoidance of anything that will reawaken his terror (24). Of course, this reading has been challenged by Lynn, among others, who place the swamp in the context of his anxiety over his gender and home-life. Interestingly, Robert Lamb offers a different reading altogether, suggesting that fishing acts as a parable for writing in this story (177), and consequently, the swamp symbolises the stories he feels he does not yet have the artistic capabilities to capture (180). (8) This conclusion is fitting when we consider what the new ending supplanted. Free association is replaced by disciplined style; a discussion of art is replaced with "straight fishing" (Selected Letters 133), and remarks about lost friends are replaced by a swamp. If indeed Lamb is correct in his suggestion that fishing is a metaphor for writing (which I certainly lean towards), the swamp can be understood as a projection of Hemingway's anxiety over that which he cannot write; the omissions compelled by anorexic logic. As already noted, Nick reflects at one point that it "was hard to be a great writer if you loved the world and living in it and special people." (9) He needed a surrogate to Write freely, and even this did not provide enough distance from the feminine as the ending still had to be deleted. While Hemingway and his protagonist conquer the disciplined style of "Big," there will still be a place that cannot be fished as long he remains attached to culture, to friends, to the feminine. The swamp, a symbol of the stories yet to be written and the paradox at the heart of Hemingway's art, could not be overcome, could not be cut away. For Hemingway, to write was to be alone, disciplined, and disinterested; to embody the brand of masculinity so prevalent in twentieth century America which required a rejection of culture. It is this requirement that lead Hemingway simultaneously to reject the feminine in both his writing and his life, and so propagate anorexic logic, while also suffering at its hands as he conflictingly sought to embody the modernist textual ideal. The end result of this internal conflict, as previously argued, was Hemingway himself struggling with weight issues.

One more element of this new lens is worth considering. Mark Anderson made the connection between the anorexic aesthetic of literary high modernism and androgyny. Considering the recent critical attention given to Hemingway's apparent androgynous understanding of gender, this connection is certainly noteworthy. Like Heywood, Anderson asserts there is a "common space occupied by minimalist writers and minimalist anorexics" that "is governed by a logic of paradox" (36). Both the anorexic and the modernist believe themselves to be a part of a damned elite that requires them to "withstand privation in the ascetic pursuit of their goals" (36). To attain a level of transcendence, they must "collapse the distinction between body and language" (36). Anderson then explains a second affinity arises between modernism and anorexia: a crisis of gender that "calls into question the very categories of male and female on which such traditional roles are based" (37). "In attempting to deny the body," Anderson explains, "the modernist produces an 'anti-body' which withdraws from the traditional arena of male privilege, authority, and responsibility" (37). The result is an ambiguity about gender that either denies "sexual difference or fuse(s) male and female identities in a complex androgynous form" (37). The anorexic aesthetic in modernism, then, becomes not only a rejection of the feminine, but also a rejection of gender altogether. Although Heywood does not overtly dismiss Anderson's argument, she asserts that the denial of the body in the texts of canonical male authors such as Pound, Kafka, and Eliot does not take the form of androgyny, but rather is explicitly "a negation of the feminine" and a "reinscription and privileging of masculine prerogative" (63). It seems the 'correct' answer on this issue is elusive as the way in which this logic functions would no doubt differ to some degree for every individual author. While there certainly is a negation of the feminine, the potential remains for a negation of gender altogether, hypothetical or achieved.

Spilka has effectively argued that Hemingway had a "life long struggle with androgyny" (3). This is most explicitly evident in The Garden of Eden which took as its subject matter "the sex-reversal experiments of two androgynous couples" (1), but it can also be observed in a number of his other works. As early as Hemingway's debut novel, The Sun Also Rises, this confusion of sexual and gender identity is evident. Lady Brett Ashley wears a man's felt hat over her boyish bob, a representation of the liberated woman of the 1920s. This assumption of equality with men, for Spilka, "makes her too difficult for Hemingway's heroes to handle even while it makes her more attractive" (2). A Farewell to Arms, also published in the 1920s, begins what Spilka labels the "hair-matching motif" (which is evident in at least three of his other texts) in which women's long hair is cut and exchanged in favour of a "man's" haircut (2). If not always explicitly androgynous (at least not until the publishing of The Garden of Eden), it is clear that Hemingway was toying with androgynous ideas in his works and questioning the more traditional binary notions of gender prevalent in his period.

What we find in Hemingway, then, is perhaps an example of Anderson's logic in operation: the negation of the feminine in his texts may have been part of a greater mission to negate gender altogether. Hemingway still remains a perpetrator of an anorexic logic that led to the cutting away of the feminine, but his motivation for doing so becomes more complex in light of Anderson's approach. Moreover, Hemingway's own weight issues can be seen not only as a rejection of the feminine as a defense mechanism, though this still remains likely, but simultaneously an attempt to be without gender; an embodiment of the androgynous impulses formed in him through a strange relationship with his mother and insecurities over sustaining a machismo image. While it is tempting to out-rightly conclude that Anderson's logic is a more beneficial lens through which to understand Hemingway's encounter with anorexia-like symptoms (both as a disease and as a logic), confirming such arguments conclusively is not only beyond the scope of this essay (as it would require an exhaustive consideration of Hemingway's life work), but most likely impossible. His exact motivations for writing and acting in the way he did will always be speculative. Consequently, my goal here, as it has been throughout this essay, is to provide a new lens that should provide sympathy, and even further admiration, for Hemingway as a man and author.


(1.) Mark Anderson had already observed in 1988 that there was a connection between the modernist literary aesthetic and anorexia, noting that "the specific movement in modernist discourse toward increasingly brief, fragmentary, self-consuming, or 'silent' texts relies, with surprising regularity and insistence, on figures of anorexia" (29). However, Heywood's treatment of this issue both extends Anderson's research and (compellingly) takes it in radically new directions.

(2.) A popular online application has been developed called the "Hemingway App" in which texts are automatically edited in the style of Hemingway. It highlights adverbs, passive verb constructions, and complex sentences so they can be removed.

(3.) In Feast, Hemingway himself writes that "I found that many of the people I wrote about had very strong appetites and a great desire for food, and most of them were looking forward to having a drink" (101).

(4.) Heywood explains her argument about the relationship between "hungering" and anorexic logic in relation to Franz Kafka, author of "A Hunger Artist," who believed that hunger was a necessary precondition for the creation of art. In order to attain a higher, immaterial form as an artist, he thought he must, in Heywood's words, "sever his ties from the usual forms of human nourishment and from the actual frame of his own body" (78). The result, for Heywood, is that "'existence, gendered feminine, is, in effect, eliminated as "fat," the female body supplanted by the male textual body" (71). In this logic, there is a conscious attempt to transform the fleshly body through hunger into text; to do away with anything that is excess or associated with the feminine and replacing it with a symbol of masculinity.

(5.) In her 2016 biography, Ernest Hemingway, Vema Kale notes how Hemingway's wife Hadley had a trust fund and that the two of them visited Switzerland where they enjoyed skiing and bobsledding, and Hemingway worked as a journalist. Accordingly, she writes that "Hemingway may, in later years, have exaggerated the extent of his poverty during the years of his Paris apprenticeship somewhat" (Location 556).

(6.) See chapter one of Dedication to Hunger for Heywood's full discussion of the roots of anorexic logic (particularly pages 16-30).

(7.) Of course, Heywood never suggests this. However, she also, as far as I am aware, does not suggest the contrary.

(8.) This interpretation is also alluded to by Moddelmog in her article "The Unifying Consciousness of a Divided Conscience: Nick Adams as Author of In Our Time."

(9.) In Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway confirms that these are not simply Nick's thoughts, asserting that good writing necessitates "discipline" and that "the writer must be intelligent and disinterested" (27).


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Elkins, Marilyn. "The Fashion of Machismo." A Historical Guide to Ernest Hemingway, edited by Linda Wagner-Martin, Oxford UP, 1999, pp. 93-116.

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--. "Big Two Hearted River." In Our Time, Scribner's, 1958, pp. 177-212.

--. Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961. Edited by Carlos Baker, Scribner's, 1981.

--. A Farewell to Arms. Scribner's, 1929.

--. The Garden of Eden. Scribner's, 1986.

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--. "On Writing." The Nick Adams Stories, Scribner's, 1972, pp. 233-41.

--. The Sun Also Rises. Scribner's, 1926.

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Izenberg, Gerald N. Modernism and Masculinity: Mann Wedekind, Kandinsky through World War I. U of Chicago P, 2000.

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Ethan Neville

Massey University, Auckland
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Author:Neville, Ethan
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Date:Sep 22, 2019
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