by Lou Mancinelli
Dr. Suzanne del Gizzo, an eighth-year Chestnut Hill College English professor, was named editor-elect of The Hemingway Review at the society’s annual board conference in late May. She follows the work of Suzanne Beegel, who retired in July after 22 years as editor. The Hemingway Review is the premier scholarship journal of the Ernest Hemingway Society, dedicated to promoting further study and specialized analysis into the life and work of one of America’s most revered novelists.
del Gizzo, 42, is currently serving her third term on the board of the society. She has organized programs for the American Literature Association and Modern Language Association, which she did from 2007 through 2011, and she co-directed the Society’s international conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“There’s a lot out there. and we’re really looking for fresh innovative insight,” Del Gizzo said. “So much of Hemingway is not just the writing.”
Dr. del Gizzo is a well-regarded Hemingway scholar, having published 20 articles on Hemingway, Fitzgerald and on 20th century literature in a number of distinguished journals, including the Hemingway Review. She has co-edited two anthologies, “Ernest Hemingway in Context” (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and “Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden: 25 Years of Criticism” (Kent State University Press, 2012) and also assembled special sections for The Hemingway Review on Frost and on Hemingway’s “Garden of Eden.” Other work for the journal includes evaluating submissions and reviewing books, while also reviewing publications for the American Literary Scholarship journal.
del Gizzo was raised in a large family in New Jersey. Like her grandmother, she is a single mother. Her daughter Hadley, named after Hemingway’s first wife, is 4. Before del Gizzo earned her bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1993, she studied for two years at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
She began her career in publishing as an assistant at The New Yorker. She had just finished her master’s degree in English language and literature at the University of Chicago in 1994. “I didn’t know anyone at the magazine,” she recalled. “I faxed a resume, and they called me. That never happens anymore.”
But the publishing industry isn’t where she wanted to be. Her strengths were in literary analysis. So she went to grad school. She earned her Ph.D. in English literature from Tulane University in 2003.
Perhaps the best-known thing about Hemingway is his persona as the quintessential tough guy who was badly wounded in war and who worked, drank, hunted big game, fished and traveled. It’s a theme embodied by his characters throughout his novels. “That’s what he did, and he did a really good job of selling it,” del Gizzo said. “What we know is that [the well-known Hemingway persona] to some extent is true … but it was also a powerful facade.”
Hemingway represented something reassuring, a vision of what people wanted to be. He is the embodiment of the silent generation, those kids sent to Europe in World Wars 1 and II, who survived the most nightmarish horrors but who came home and weren’t supposed to talk about it. Hemingway’s work was one man’s way of dealing with the reality of an often-cruel world.
At the same time, according to del Gizzo, Hemingway explored non-traditional roles in stories that might have helped alter his persona had they been released in his lifetime. For example, she pointed to “Garden of Eden,” published in 1986, 25 years after his death.
In that novel, Hemingway explores gender and sexual roles in interesting and unexpected ways like androgyny and gender-reversals. del Gizzo thinks Hemingway didn’t publish it because he knew how it might affect the public image he fought to maintain. His art was a longing for that image, a way to live it. In the end, he finished the story of his life with a suicide in the summer of 1961 at the age of 60.
Hemingway almost fell off college reading lists in the 1970s when many female professors saw a chauvinism in his work, according to del Gizzo. He wrote in a time before Vietnam when it wasn’t accepted to talk about things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she explained. She thinks “Garden of Eden” in many ways helped to reinvigorate studies about him. The thing about a great writer’s work, according to del Gizzo, and the criticism and studies about it, is that it changes and is open to reinterpretations with new generations.
For example, regarding “The Great Gatsby.” del Gizzo wrote in a 2009 article in Bright Lights Film Journal, “The novel speaks directly to our adolescent national character. Contrary to general opinion, “Gatsby” is not one of the most enduring American novels because it is about the American Dream; rather its legendary status relies on the fact that it is about our adolescent indifference to the corruption of the American Dream. We’re having a good time, right? … “It is still frequently misread as a celebration of the American Dream. We are so distracted by the glitter that we close our eyes to Gatsby’s illicit activities.”
That leads one to ask if there are any essential American writers today creating important fiction. del Gizzo said there are too many to chose from and that her answer could be different on any given day. Nevertheless, she offered three names: Marilyn Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, and Jonathan Franzen.
For more information about the The Hemingway Review, visit Hemingwaysociety.org.