Beleaguered Modernists

Milton A. Cohen

in Key West Hemingway

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780813033556
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813038353 | DOI:
Beleaguered Modernists

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This chapter expands the focus from the personal to the political by comparing Hemingway to Wallace Stevens. Despite their 1936 fistfight, the two writers suffered a similar crisis of conscience that caused them to first doubt and then defensively reassert the role of the modernist artist in an increasingly political age. That Stevens and Hemingway righted their leftward tilt at the end of the 1930s also typified the larger disaffiliation of writers and intellectuals. As Daniel Aaron observes, the cumulative impact of several events in the late 1930s, culminating in the Russo-German pact of August 1939, prompted a large number of disaffiliations and renunciations of membership in the CPUSA. But that these two writers shed their political skins so easily and thoroughly speaks to how fundamentally apolitical they really were, and how much they were responding to the pressure of the times.

Keywords: Ernest Hemingway; Wallace Stevens; 1936 fistfight; modernist artist; Key West

Chapter.  5416 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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