Ernest Hemingway and the Bullfight Primer: Genre, Ideology, and Tragedy

By Randall Spinks.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Ernest Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon” (1932) is the sun around which all bullfight primers in English revolve. This genre study examines the relationship between tauramachy and nonfiction literature about it as an instance of modernism and the ideology thereof. Hemingway and followers set out to correct the inevitable erroneous assumptions about this Spanish tradition. They would reframe the basic misconception that bullfighting is a sport. They translate an esoteric tradition across cultures, explaining the fiesta as an art form within a limited Hispanic subculture. They would show how bullfighting is no mere modernization of ancient Roman spectacle. It is, rather, folkloric in origins, refined into formal, balletic tragedy. The bullfight primer therefore engages in art appreciation rhetoric, introducing readers to complex interpretive strategies. Terry Eagleton’s “Ideology of the Aesthetic” and “Sweet Violence” prove most applicable to this literary genre about a performance art form.
That is, we must historicize; we must engage in immanent critique. The bullfight primer and its accompanying scholarship show that the corrida’s transgressive aesthetic was always politically motivated. It both advanced and subverted a masculine ideal, itself a sythesis of sexism and a utopian, class rebellion. Likewise, the corrida’s nonfiction literary representation in English becomes an epiphenomenon of bullfighting’s development within the uneven changeover from late feudalism to capitalism.

Keywords: Ernest Hemingway, Bullfight Primer, Aesthetics, Modernism, Tragedy, Imminent Critique, Genre and Ideology

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 7, pp.61-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 773.890KB).

Dr. Randall Spinks

Instructor, Department of English, Granada, USA

Dr. Randall Spinks currently teaches at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York. His research interests include American Literature and Film.


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