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Hemingway's Mythical Method: Implications of Dante Allusion in In Our Time Open Access

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The widely accepted assessment of Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time is that the text’s fragmentary form belies a complex but cohesive narrative wholeness. Missing from the critical record, however, is an adequate account of In Our Time’s use of what T.S. Eliot termed “the mythical method.” Using a palimpsestic system of indirect allusion, Hemingway’s fragmentary novel constructs an overarching pattern of reference to the journey of Dante’s pilgrim through Hell and Purgatory in the Divine Comedy. Hemingway’s use of this mythical method not only provides his novel a more concrete narrative framing device than its critics have recognized, but also reflects new dimensions of the influence Dante, Eliot, and Ezra Pound exerted on Hemingway’s earliest work. In particular, similarities between In Our Time and Pound’s Draft of XVI Cantos (both published in 1925), combined with Pound’s well-documented mentorship of Hemingway, suggest Pound may have been a primary source of influence on Hemingway’s apprehension of and engagement with Dante and the epic tradition he represents.

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