15 January 2012


A few months ago, I finished and submitted my dissertation for my postgraduate diploma at Otago.  I wrote about Nabokov's Pale Fire and how the oft-overlooked index to the text was central to reconciling the conflicting elements of the book.  I got an "A" on my dissertation.  If you'd like, you can even read it, although it might be too academic to be interesting.  A sample:

My approach to the text comes thorough an appreciation of its structure, as suggested by Nabokov's translation and commentary on Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, which acknowledges the unique information provided in the Index to Pale Fire, and offers a new synthesis. I build on the spiral pattern found by Brian Boyd in the process of re-reading, but - setting aside the question of the “real” author - my synthetic reading focuses on resolving the tension between the differing voices of Shade and Kinbote.
I'm pretty happy with it, and it helped me graduate.  But it's over and done with, and I'm moving on to new work.  Last week I was officially accepted into the one-year thesis program for an M.A., and a whole new pile of research awaits.

For my thesis, the topic will be a study and comparison of the different versions of Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, his wonderful account of his early life in the Paris of the twenties.  No such study of the different editions exists, and the background behind the editions is complicated.

The original version, published in 1964, was assembled from the author's drafts after his death by his fourth wife, Mary Walsh Hemingway. However, the critic Gerry Brenner's 1982 paper, "Are We Going to Hemingway's Feast?", pointed out numerous editorial decisions that were questionable and that seemed to deviate significantly from what the author seems to have intended in his manuscripts.  For example, Mary Walsh removed several favorable references to Hadley Richardson Hemingway, the author's first wife.  Brenner suggested a reordering of the chapters in the text, for a more coherent narrative arc, as well as some other changes.

This edition of the text was followed in 2009 by a new edition, edited by Hemingway's grandson Sean Hemingway (whose grandmother was Hemingway's second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer). Sean Hemingway made numerous changes to the text, including some of the same reordering recommended by Brenner as well as stylistic shifts, changing the narration to second person - and adding more material about his grandmother. These changes have resulted in at least three versions of A Moveable Feast, which all differ significantly from each other!

While there have been some published responses to Brenner and some reviews of the 2009 edition, however, there has not been a serious critical analysis of the impact and import of the changes.  The most in-depth examination has been a review published that year that used a computer to produce a list of the changes between editions, chunked up like in a list but without serious discussion.

Like much of Hemingway's later, unfinished work, A Moveable Feast represents a raw text that touches deeply on some of his most important qualities: his pettiness towards rivals, his deeply-held issue with andogyny and sexuality, and his philosophy of art. I feel that an analysis of the different ways in which these traits are portrayed in the editions of one of his most famous works would be valuable.  And because I have loved Hemingway for some years, devouring all of his work and returning to it repeatedly, as well as examining much of the critical research (I have been a member of the Hemingway Society and subscriber to The Hemingway Review for years), it's also going to be fun.

Away I go!


  1. Congrats! And Good Luck (well, not like you'll need it, or anything!)

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  3. From Leisha ~Congrats and well done. I hope you have a most enjoyable and illuminating time on your Hemingway research and analysis. I remember quite well how much you enjoy his works.