Imagining Paris

Exile, Writing, and American Identity

J. Gerald Kennedy

View Inside Price: $29.00


September 10, 1994
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
12 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300061024
Paper

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Between 1900 and 1940, Paris was the capital of high modernism and the center of artistic experimentation—Paris was "where the twentieth century was," claimed Gertrude Stein. In this book, J. Gerald Kennedy explores how living in Paris shaped the careers and literary works of five expatriate Americans: Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Djuna Barnes. Kennedy shows that the writings of these authors reveal their various struggles to accommodate themselves to a complex, foreign scene, to construct an expatriate self, or to understand the contradictions of American identity. He treats these figures and their narratives as instances of the profound effect of place on writing and on the formation of the self.

According to Kennedy, Stein's Paris, France presents an abstraction, a series of random and discontinuous images refracted into a theory of the French way of life. Her self- portrait in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, however, hinges on a contrast between the outside world of galleries, studios, and exhibitions and her inner domain at 27, rue de Fleurus. Hemingway's conflict with Paris, says Kennedy, betrays both an attraction to its danger and a disgust with its profligacy, as seen in the ambivalent imagery of The Sun Also Rises. Miller's Paris emerges in his Letters to Emil and Tropic of Cancer as a tormenting world of alleyways, sewers, and flophouses that nevertheless becomes a site of deliverance where Miller discovers himself as a literary subject. The nocturnal, unreal Paris of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night and Barnes's Nightwood reflects the disorientation of modernism, which parallel and intensify the estrangement of exile.

J. Gerald Kennedy, professor of English at Louisiana State University, is also the author of Poe, Death, and the Life of Writing.

"The story of these five representative Americans is told by Kennedy so clearly that it seems obvious, as truth always does when it is said right."—Michael Reynolds, North Carolina State University

"A richly anecdotal study of the reactions to Paris if five American writers who lived and wrote there during the inter-war years—Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Djuna Barnes."—Michael Kenney, Boston Globe

"Kennedy's concept of place with its inherent dilemmas adds clear, fresh scholarship to the existing knowledge on the American expatriate writers. Recommended."—Library Journal

"There is much to commend in Professor Kennedy's study."—Geoffrey Moore, Financial Times

"Readers who enjoy the works of [Fitzgerald, Miller, Barnes, Stein or Hemingway] will welcome the chance to heighten their understanding of the writer by reading Kennedy's book."—Sarah Sue Goldsmith, Magazine

"[A] fluid and well researched book which teems with insight into literary lives."—Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

"A fresh approach to the works of five very familiar American writers."—Choice

"This is a marvellous book, not only because it is a lucidly written, provocative, and useful work of literary criticism, but also because it helps to open up a new field of critical inquiry. . . . Kennedy's work is pioneering because it deals with the imaginative interaction with place with the intelligence and sophistication the issue deserves. . . . not only a fascination account of American interactions with Paris, but also a model for other efforts to analyze the ways in which authors have dealt with the problem of place. . . . I recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone interested in modernism, Paris, or the cultural meanings of travel, tourism, expatriatism, and exile."—Dana Brand, F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Newsletter

"[A] brilliant critical study. . . . Imagining Paris is a vital, engagingly written, and absorbing book. Kennedy has brought new insights to an overlooked aspect of literary studies."—James R. Mellow, Hemingway Review

"[A] stimulating study. . . . Recommended to anyone with an interest in American literature, Paris or exploring the concept of "place" as it is constructed through writing."—David Drake, Times Higher Education Supplement

"An attractively written and intellectually lively rereading of a significant generation of American writers. Imagining Paris not only approaches key texts with a fresh vision, but it also provides a methodological paradigm that might be exported to the study of other writers and other places."—Philip K. Jason, American Literature

"Thoughtful and thought-provoking, . . . indispensable."—David Rollow, Literary Review