Illusions of prestige: Hemingway, Hollywood, and the branding of an American self-image, 1923-1958
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Illusions of Prestige traces the development of Ernest Hemingway's image from the early 1920s to the late 1950s. A quintessential figure of the twentieth-century culture of celebrity, Hemingway developed his stature alongside the nation's corresponding rise to global dominance. As the author reached the peak of his popularity in the 1950s, Hollywood predictably appropriated his cachet, adding to his iconic status by adapting his fiction and his paradigmatic persona I with greater regularity. In the early 1950s, Under My Skin, The Breaking Point, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro were released, while The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea appeared later in the decade. Although recent scholarship has overlooked this collection of films, it nonetheless offers a compelling area of analysis, especially considering that almost all were based on Hemingway's interwar writing. Indeed, Hemingway's works, his image, and the film adaptations can be treated as competing texts within and against broader historical shifts, revealing how the social constructions of an artist, mass culture, and a nation converged over a period of thirty-five years. By investigating the contemporary circumstances in which his original literature and the film adaptations were produced and received, this dissertation uses the relationship between text and context to reinvigorate discussions of Hemingway. Illusions of Prestige suggests that the author became more overtly representative of what it meant to be an American throughout his life, developing a complicated self-image that was a reflection of many of the country's more complex moments. Part I features three chapters that situate five of Hemingway's literary works within the 1920s and 1930s, and question the author's association with the expatriate modernists of the 1920s and the radical intellectuals of the 1930s. Part II, then, includes four chapters that turn to the Hollywood adaptations of those same pieces in the 1950s, discussing the ways that popular interpretations of Hemingway were being used to mediate the public's vision of postwar America. This interdisciplinary approach demonstrates that the author still remains a vital resource for literary studies, film studies, and American cultural studies.
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