In the end, Monteiro sums up developments in Crane scholarship this way: The long debated questions of Crane’s themes, interests, and ideas philosophical determinism, literary naturalism, Christianity, social reform—and how best to describe his literary style—impressionist, symbolist, naturalist, realist, parodist—no longer seem to evoke the high interest that they once did. The prevailing view now seems to be that Crane— working in various ways, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes ringing changes over the short span of a literary career that fell well short of a decade— has a secure place in American literary history, with the main tasks before us being the discovery and establishment of the facts of his life (e.g.Wertheim and Sorrentino), the ways he fits into the texture and context of his times (e.g. Bill Brown), and how he can be approached through the lenses of changing critical modes (e.g. Amy Kaplan).
Of his own scholarship, along with his “Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” essay, Monteiro pointed to four other essays that he believes contributed to Crane studies most significantly from 1960 to 2000, when Blue Badge of Courage was published. While he admits he “never thought about [his] work in quite these terms” until I asked him, the first is “Stephen Crane and the Antimonies of Christian Charity” (1972), a study (following Stanley Wertheim’s work) that helped him, in his words, “sort out Crane’s ideas about naturalism and Christianity”; the chief contribution of this essay was Monteiro’s demonstration that the conflict between these two oppositional worldviews comprises the central paradox Crane grappled with over the length of his career. The second, “The Logic Beneath ‘The Open Boat’” (1972), is an essay that, according to Monteiro, “opened the way to the discovery of the importance to Crane’s work of nineteenthcentury popular religious emblems and the imagery of popular hymns.” (George Landow acknowledges this essay’s significance to his 1982 book Images of Crisis, which treats the imagery and iconology of shipwrecks.)
The last two, “John Sloan’s ‘Cranes’” (1988) and “The Drunkard’s Progress: Bowery Plot, Social Paradigm in Stephen Crane’s George’s Mother” (1999) offered new ways to study Crane as a chronicler of the urban experience; the two works compare, respectively, Crane’s New York novels and sketches to the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Ashcan School of painting exemplified in Sloan’s work and the temperance-tract literature of the period.
In his book on Crane, Monteiro challenges new trends in American literary scholarship beginning with his confrontational first line: “Stephen Crane’s Blue Badge of Courage is intentionally unfashionable” (1). Deeply probing “beneath” Crane’s imagination, as his title for the “Open Boat” essay implies, to explore influences on Crane’s work such as the temperance movement, evangelical Christianity, popular novels, and magazine illustrations, along with literary and historical concerns like naturalism, impressionism, material culture, and ideology, Monteiro nonetheless believes that Crane’s writing itself must always be placed at the forefront of any study on the author. Without this, Monteiro insists, no criticism of Crane’s work, or any writer’s for that matter, will survive the test of time. Crane scholar John Clendenning agrees, concluding his review in American Literature that unlike innovative contextual studies like Bill Brown’s Material Unconscious: American Amusement, Stephen Crane, and the Economies of Play (1996), Monteiro’s book “can and should be readily integrated
into traditional lines of Crane scholarship” because its central focus is the writer and his work (413).
Stephen Crane’s Blue Badge of Courage “does not mask a ‘truer’ subject,” Monteiro insists, “nor does it serve as a pretext for writing about something else. Stephen Crane is not employed to serve as a ‘window’ on nineteenth- century American life or as a precursor for twentieth-century art. The book does not set up Crane’s fiction as a tool for digging away at the culture of his times. . . . [Crane] is no whipping boy, cat’s paw, straw man, or MacGuffin” (1, 2). Above all, Blue Badge of Courage treats Crane as a “realist of the psyche” (3) an author preoccupied with how the “perceptions of individual human beings” guide day-to-day lives (5), and Monteiro shows how perception in general informed the seemingly conjured magic of Crane’s impressionistic style. Antonio Luciano Tosta, a former graduate student of Monteiro’s at Brown, wrote for a festschrift in honor of Monteiro that his former professor carried this method into the classroom as well: “Unlike some professors I had had, George focused on the texts and not ‘only’ on abstract theoretical concepts. He read them in detail and taught us how to do the same” (127). Thus by publishing his book, Monteiro satisfied his lifelong goal, as he attests in the book’s final line, to deepen “our understanding of the meaning and purpose of Crane’s work as well as our proper appreciation for the achievement of this noble rider of the imagination” (200).
From an early age, Monteiro disputed the short-sighted premise that only a select few American authors demonstrated true literary craftsmanship and historical relevance. When asked which American authors were considered worthy of study in the 1950s, Monteiro responded that for the nineteenth century “the old Americanists narrowed the list down to eight: Poe, Whitman, Emerson, Melville, Hawthorne, Clemens, Thoreau, and James. . . . Years later, it was decided that perhaps eight was not enough, but when the proper committee looked into the matter it was decided that the original were still ‘right’ but Emily Dickinson had been unfairly left out.” Crane’s name, along with Howells’s and others, remained conspicuously absent. In fact, Monteiro recalls that “once, many years ago, a short analytical piece on a Whilomville story (‘A Little Pilgrimage’) was returned to me with the dismissive observation that one could not read or analyze a Crane story as if it were a story by James Joyce.” Though the article in question, “Whilomville as Judah: Crane’s ‘A Little Pilgrimage,” was eventually accepted by Renascence in 1967, such prejudice against the inherent artistry of American writing remains in academia regardless of the colossal developments of the last fifty years.
Monteiro has always argued that more American writing should, in fact, be read at a level of analysis deserving of Joyce. And his initial focus of interest, Ernest Hemingway, whose effect on world literature can no longer be ignored, famously positioned Crane, along with Henry James and Mark Twain, as one of America’s three seminal national writers. Monteiro, who published a critical anthology of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms in 1994, responded to the question of why Hemingway held Crane in such high esteem by identifying what specifically Hemingway derived from Crane’s fiction for his own art:
I think in the Red Badge Hemingway found an example of a work that portrayed
war convincingly (in the first person by a combatant) by a writer who had never
seen war. It encouraged him to believe that he could write A Farewell to Arms
(also in the first person by a combatant) without having had combat experience
(he was wounded shortly after arriving in Italy to serve as an ambulance driver
and certainly was not a combatant). His own wounding was virtually collateral to
the fighting. It was only after Hemingway had seen fighting close up for a much
longer time (in the Spanish Civil War) that he described Crane’s Red Badge (in
Men at War) as a “boy’s dream of war.” As for “The Blue Hotel,” a Hemingway
favorite, singled out in Green Hills of Africa, there is the shared sense of looming
danger for the “outsider” close to the “frontier”whether, as in the Swede’s case, it
is the West, or, as in Hemingway’s case (see “The Battler” or “The Light of the
World) the frontier bar in a small Montana town or the tramps’ jungle. In short,
Crane the professional writer, who always put his money (when he had it) where
his mouth was, served Hemingway as a model for the “heroic” writer who lived his
life out in the world and not in some safe garret.
Besides comparing Crane’s work alongside other American and British writers who cited Crane as a force, such as Edward Garnett, Joseph Conrad,Ford Maddox Ford, H. G. Wells, Henry James, and others, Monteiro proposes a new avenue of inquiry with Irish writers as well. “We still don’t know who, in Ireland, was reading Crane in the late 1890s and after his early death. I suspect that his Irish readers, on the evidence of their work, included William Butler Yeats, George Moore (stories), and, no surprise to me, Joyce (poems and stories).” Monteiro finds correspondences between the imagery we find in Yeats’s poetry and Crane’s “Black Riders,”for instance. Even more resonant parallels exist, he believes, in Moore’s story “Home Sickness” and the scene of the stranger’s return with the stranger’s arrival in Crane’s “The Blue Hotel.” He further maintains that Joyce’s childhood stories and recollections in Dubliners have unambiguous parallels with Crane’s Whilomville Stories, including his novella The Monster, “which ends with Dr. Trescott’s stunned paralysis, a scene not unlike the emotional tableau which is the objective correlative for Conroy’s paralysis in ‘The Dead.’”
Now that scholars have access to reliable resources like J. C. Levenson’s edited Library of America volume of Crane’s prose and poetry (1984), Wertheim and Sorrentino’s The Crane Log and what Monteiro considers their “superbly edited” two-volume The Correspondence of Stephen Crane (1988) (a collection that “quarantined,” as Monteiro phrases it, Beer’s fabrications in an appendix), Wertheim’s Stephen Crane Encyclopedia (1997), and an ever-growing body of recent discoveries for Crane biography— much of it supplied by Monteiro—Crane might at last be studied as closely and scrupulously as any other great writer of the past two hundred years. The new Correspondence alone, which Monteiro reviewed favorably for Modern Fiction Studies, presents over 780 letters and inscriptions with 400 new items not included by Stallman and Gilkes, including 170 by Crane and 20 by his companion Cora Stewart.
On the strength of this new body of material unraveling Crane’s elusive life story and effect on world literature, Monteiro insists that today’s critics “should be about the work of reading more attentively not only his Whilomville stories and the pieces gathered in Wounds in the Rain, but the novels Active Service and The Third Violet (too easily and off-handedly dismissed as hack work or pot-boilers), as well as the ‘rollicking’ tale The O’Ruddy, a parody left unfinished but completed by the novelist Robert Barr.” Monteiro concedes that such lesser-read works will not likely receive the critical attention The Red Badge of Courage, Maggie, George’s Mother, “The Blue Hotel,” “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” or The Monster have garnered over the years; all the same, he encourages emergent Crane scholars to consider a broader field of analysis. These unsung texts “will prove rewarding, I venture, to those who will look at them anew with eyes unprejudiced by old expectations for what constitutes ‘Crane’s work.’” Reflecting back on his trouble getting the “Little Pilgrimage” piece into print, Monteiro in the end encourages future Crane scholars “to extend Crane the courtesy of reading all (or at least more) of his work as if they were by Joyce or Chekhov or Hemingway.”
1. This essay is based on a series of interviews conducted by the author with George Monteiro via email from January 8, 2010, to March 8, 2010. All quotations not cited are from this email exchange.
2. While editing The Correspondence of Stephen Crane (1988), Wertheim and Sorrentino questioned the disappearance of scores of letters by a prominent American author. Wertheim soon unearthed the typescripts of Beer’s book in Yale’s Sterling Library, which revealed that Beer wrote different drafts of what were ostensibly Crane’s letters and different versions of a number of the incidents in his life. See Wertheim and Sorrentino’s “Thomas Beer: The Clay Feet of Stephen Crane Biography.”
3. See also my review of Edmund White’s novel about “Flowers of Asphalt,” Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel (2007).
Almeida, Onésimo T., and Alice R. Clemente, eds. George Monteiro. The Discreet Charm of a Portuguese-American Scholar. Providence, RI: Gávea-Brown, 2005.
Bates, H. E. The Modern Short Story: A Critical Survey. London: Thomas Nelson, 1941.
———. “Stephen Crane: A Neglected Genius.” Bookman 81 (October 1931): 10–11.
Beer, Thomas. Stephen Crane. A Study in American Letters. Intro. Joseph Conrad. New York: Knopf, 1923.
Berryman, John. Stephen Crane. New York: William Sloane, 1950.
Brown, Bill. The Material Unconscious: American Amusement, Stephen Crane, and the Economics of Play. Cambridge and London: Harvard UP, 1996
Clemente, Alice R. “George Monteiro: The Valley Years.” Almeida and Clemente 148–58.
Clendenning, John. Rev. of Stephen Crane’s Blue Badge of Courage, by George Monteiro; and The Material Unconscious: American Amusement, Stephen Crane, and the Economies of Play, by Bill Brown. American Literature 74 (2002): 411–13.
Crane, Stephen. Stephen Crane: Prose and Poetry. Ed. J. C. Levenson. New York: Library of America, 1984.
Dowling, Robert M. “Rev. of Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel, by Edmund White.” Studies in American Naturalism 3 (2008): 188–92.
Follett, Wilson, ed. The Work of Stephen Crane. 12 vols. New York: Knopf, 1925–1927.
Hoffman, Daniel G. The Poetry of Stephen Crane. New York: Columbia UP, 1957.
Labor, Earle. “Crane and Hemingway: Anatomy of Trauma.” Renascence 11 (1959): 189–96.
Landow, George P. Images of Crisis: Literary Iconography, 1750–Present. Boston: Routledge,
Monteiro, George. “The Drunkard’s Progress: Bowery Plot, Social Paradigm in Stephen Crane’s George’s Mother.” Dionysos 9.1 (1999): 5–16.
———. Email to the author. 8 Jan.–8 Mar. 2010.
———. Henry James and John Hay The Record of a Friendship. Providence, RI: Brown UP, 1965.
———. Henry James and Stephen Crane, with Robert Wooster Stallman. London:Sussex Tapes, released by BFA Educ
ational Media, 1974.
———. “John Sloan’s ‘Cranes.’” Journal of Modern Literature 14 (1988): 584–98.
———. “The Logic Beneath ‘The Open Boat.’” Georgia Review 26 (1972): 326–35.
———. “Notes on Columbia University in the Mid-Fifties.” “The American Fifties”Conference. Universidade Nova, Lisbon, Portugal. Jan. 1991. Address.
———. Rev. of The Correspondence of Stephen Crane, ed. Stanley Wertheim and Paul Sorrentino. Modern Fiction Studies 36 (1990): 229–31.
———. “Stephen Crane and the Antinomies of Christian Charity.” Centennial Review 16 (1972): 91–104.
———. Stephen Crane’s Blue Badge of Courage. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP,2000.
———. “Stephen Crane’s ‘The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.’” Approaches to Short Fiction. Ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Louis H. Leiter. San Francisco: Chandler, 1963. Rpt.in Instructor’s Manual for the Art of Fiction. Ed. R. F. Dietrich and Roger H. Sundell. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974. 74–85.
———. “Whilomville as Judah: Crane’s ‘A Little Pilgrimage.’” Renascence 19 (1967):184–89.
———, ed. Critical Essays on Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. New York:G. K. Hall, 1994.
———, ed. Stephen Crane: The Contemporary Reviews. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,2009.
Shroeder, John. “The Misgivings of George Monteiro: A Retrospective.” Almeida and Clemente 130–33.
Sorrentino, Paul. ed. Stephen Crane Remembered. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2006.
Stallman, R. W. “Introduction. The Red Badge of Courage. By Stephen Crane.” NewYork: Modern Library, 1951: v–xxxvii.
———. Stephen Crane: A Biography. New York: George Braziller, 1968.
———. “That Crane, That Albatross around My Neck: A Self-Interview by R. W. Stallman.”Journal of Modern Literature 7 (1979): 147–69.
———, and Lillian Gilkes, eds. Stephen Crane: Letters. New York: New York UP,1960.
Tosta, Antonio Luciano. “George Monteiro.” Almeida and Clemente 126–27. Trilling, Lionel. Beyond Culture: Essays on Literature and Learning. New York: Viking,1965.
Van Doren, Mark. “Rev. of Stephen Crane A Study in American Letters, by Thomas Beer.” The Nation (Jan. 16, 1924): 118–66.
Wertheim, Stanley. Email to the author. 9 Mar. 2010.
———. Email to the author. 23 Sept. 2009
———. A Stephen Crane Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.
———, and Paul Sorrentino. “Thomas Beer: The Clay Feet of Stephen Crane Biography.” American Literary Realism 22.3 (1990): 2–16.
———, and Paul Sorrentino, eds. The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of Stephen Crane, 1871–1900. New York: G. K. Hall, 1994.
Williams, Ames W., and Vincent Starrett. Stephen Crane: A Bibliography. Glendale, CA: J. Valentine, 1948.
1. Artigo publicado no número especial de Studies in American Naturalism, vol. 5, no. 1, dedicado a “Naturalism’s Histories”, que analisa os casos de estudiosos que escreveram sobre a obra de escritores como Theodore Dreiser, Frank Norris, Jack London e Stephen Crane.
2. O autor Robert M. Dowling, is an associate professor of English at Central Connecticut State University