American Fiction, American Myth: Essays by Philip Young Edited by David Morrell and Sandra Spanier
Few experts in American literature have written as insightfully and brilliantly as did Philip Young, renowned Hemingway critic and scholar at large. His unique work bursts with a joy in the humanities, with a humor and a style that communicate to academics and general readers alike. Although Young died in 1991, he survives in his remarkable prose. American Fiction, American Myth features nineteen groundbreaking essays in which Young masterfully reveals the “so what?” that he insisted all literary studies ought to have. In the first section, he demonstrates his fascination with such American myths as Pocahontas and Rip Van Winkle, reaching powerful conclusions about America and its people. In the second section, he becomes “Our Hemingway Man,” explaining his germinal and still provocative theory that Hemingway’s severe wounding in World War I so traumatized the novelist that his fiction was to a great degree unwitting self-psychoanalysis. Young’s book on Hemingway was the first of its kind, but Young was more than a one-author critic, as his essays demonstrate in the third section, exploring such diverse topics as Hawthorne’s secret love, the Lost Generation that was never lost, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debt to T. S. Eliot, and the relationship between American fiction and American life. The reader comes away from these essays dazzled by the power of Young’s observations and the grace with which he expresses them.
In the FAQ section of this website, I talk about how important Hemingway scholar Philip Young was to me. After his death, I co-edited (with Penn State’s Sandra Spanier) his uncollected essays, which are about Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, Pocahontas, and Rip Van Winkle, to name a few subjects. In my introduction, I explain how Young changed my life. His prose is lively, interesting, and compelling enough to have made me move from Canada to the United States to study with him. Eventually I became his graduate assistant. After his first wife died, my wife and I helped manage his household.
“This book shows Philip Young at his best. Full of keen insights, these essays will take readers back to original texts with fresh perspectives. Young was a gifted stylist, and his turn of phrase is precise and evocative.”
—Robert N. Hudspeth, University of Redlands
“What a poignant pleasure, to hear again in these previously uncollected essays the ever-graceful, always illuminating, and unfailingly entertaining voice of Philip Young: splendid teacher, scholar-critic of the first order, much-missed colleague and friend.”
—John Barth, Washington College