26 January 2014


Lizzie suggested I put up a short version of my thesis, since I guess I never got around to doing that. Here's the full abstract. A year of my life, in encapsulated text form.

A Moveable Feast is a memoir about Hemingway's early years in Paris from 1921-1926, written as a series of themed sketches – each sketch focused on an event, a place, or a person. The food and fights of Paris were vividly recalled and displayed, at times matching or exceeding anything Hemingway had written before. The book also perpetuated the public image that the author had so carefully crafted over the years; Hemingway portrayed himself as both fresh young artist and rugged man-of-the-world. It settled many old scores from the author's past, most particularly with Gertrude Stein, and gruffly described Hemingway's loss of innocence as he broke with his first wife, Hadley Richardson. But these very personal elements had proven difficult for the author to write, and he had never been able to settle on a final form. In addition to artistic concerns, he was worried about hurting those who appeared in its pages, worried about being sued by those still living, and worried about his legacy: as described years later by Gerry Brenner, “How would you like to be remembered? By the people you knew, or the people you knifed?” (Paul 2009, 19). Vacillating even as he approached the end of the editing process, Hemingway added a terse note to the final typescript: “This is too dangerous and libelous to publish. Absolutely” (Tavernier-Courbin 1991, 36).

Hemingway’s uncertainty about A Moveable Feast led him to leave it in a problematic state. Essentially complete, the text was nonetheless rough. It was too substantial to be offered in exact reproduction as a reference for scholarly curiosity, but it was too unpolished to send straight to the printer. Yet fierce editing had long been a hallmark of the Hemingway style, as he would relate in the text itself, making it difficult to conceive of a Hemingway work that could be judiciously presented as “unfinished.” Further, one of the editors of the novel was to be his fourth wife, Mary. She had been helping him in his writing for years, but in many ways A Moveable Feast was Hemingway's book-length paean to his salad days with Hadley, and it held unalloyed adulation and apologies to the woman who would later say that it recalled the “sweet young man I had married” (Lipscomb 2009).

Mary and Scribner's Harry Brague approached the project seriously, taking pains not to add any new material, except for passages from previous drafts. In addition to standard editorial efforts, they reordered some of the sketches in the book, assembled a final chapter from two of the sketches, and cobbled together a foreword via selected sentences from Hemingway's many attempts at composing one. They also changed the style in numerous places, apparently seeking consistency with the author's previous works – in several places, for example, Hemingway's use of second-person narration is changed to a more conventional first person. When published, however, none of these changes were revealed: the text was explicitly presented as if it had been completely finished, and no hint was given that the editors had found it necessary to make significant alterations. It was not until years later, when scholars such as Gerry Brenner and Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin gained access to the manuscripts, that critics realized that A Moveable Feast had been altered in many ways from what Hemingway had left behind. 

The publication in 2009 of A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition was intended to address many of these concerns. As noted by Robert Trogdon in “A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition: a Review and a Collation of Differences,” the new edition eliminates some of the most questionable editorial alterations, such as the shift in person and the editor-assembled preface (2009). The changes, both large and small, have a serious effect on the work and on how a reader experiences it. Some of these alterations in the reader’s experience appear to have been intended by the new edition, but others were not. The very nature of a restored edition, with its foreword (and justification) and a collection of “new” sketches after the formal chapters, shifts the way the text is read and appreciated.

This thesis traces the shifts in style, the results of the changes, and the journey from one edition to the next over the course of forty-five years. A Moveable Feast exists in numerous distinct forms, and accordingly presents a variety of possible experiences for the reader. In my first chapter, I explore the development of these versions from a much-corrected manuscript to the published first edition in 1964, as well as the subsequent development of a hypothetical “ideal” text by critics, and finally the publication of a “restored” edition in 2009. An understanding of the history of the text is essential, because the intertextual relationship is so rich: A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition is not only a new version, but also an explicit response to the initial publication and to scholarly criticism.

In my second chapter, I examine how the production of the Restored Edition calls into question many casual assumptions about the possibilities of publication and the hypothetical Feasts that might have been. It is tempting to describe a continuum stretching from an un-edited facsimile of the typescripts to a wholly rewritten edition, a closer examination of these extremes reveals that the relationship of a new edition with its predecessors, with its critical commentary, and with its own physical nature complicates the picture beyond a single axis of editorial intervention. Instead, as I will show, the 2009 edition exists as simply a new and inconclusive outcome of the process by which new versions are produced, driven by the contrary goals of authorial intention and inclusiveness. This is not intended as condemnation; the new edition is successful in many ways, and critics should keep in mind Darcy Cullen's succinct and complete description of the purpose of publication. "The purpose of publishing," Cullen says, "is to bring a text to its readers" (Cullen 2012, 3).

In my third chapter, I address the manifold specific alterations between the 1964 edition to the 2009 edition. Every sketch has been changed at least slightly, and many of the sketches have been very significantly altered. Further, the shift in the ordering of the sketches and the break-up of the last sketch into its component parts changes the structure of the book in a way that realizes a pattern spotted by Gerry Brenner in 1982. All of these changes alter the manner in which a reader experiences Feast, and many of them also highlight the contradictory goals of the new edition.

I hope the results compel new reflection on the editing of all of Hemingway’s work, a well as the production of posthumous texts in general, by focusing attention on the way in which transtexts involve implicit claims of authority. The inclusion of fragments and alternates, the label of “revised” or “restored,” and other elements assert hidden messages about the pedigree of a text. Both scholars and readers should be wary of the necessary deference to the myth of authorial purity inherent in these messages, which establish textual authority in an intuitive but false appeal to direct authorial transmission, ignoring the fact that any text is the product of a social process.

This appeal is easily accessible and suggests a simple rule, but ample scholarly work has shown that any version of any text is the work of many hands, and continued aspiration to a pleasant myth undermines the necessary transparency that is especially required in posthumous texts. It is only once intervention is freely admitted that the principles involved can be discussed and disclosed to the reader – and that the reader can select a text to enjoy.

On a shelf here, there's a red leatherbound edition with gold lettering. I'm still waiting for publishers to contact me. Any day now.

No comments:

Post a Comment