English, Department of


Date of this Version

June 2008


Paper delivered at the 13th Biennial International Hemingway Society Conference, June 13, 2008, Kansas City, MO. The paper is adapted from Guy Reynolds, Apostles of Modernity: American Writers in the Age of Development (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008). Copyright © 2008 Guy Reynolds.


In this paper I want to work with some of the key global issues – modernization, decolonization, development – that preoccupied US intellectuals in the 1950s, as the country moved towards a hegemonic global position following the Second World War and, perhaps more importantly, the breaking-up of European empires. In Burdick and Lederer’s The Ugly American (1958), Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King (1959), and the sprawling manuscript that became Under Kilimanjaro/ True at First Light we see fictional responses to decolonization: these authors constructed narratives that placed American protagonists in the terrain of the vanishing European. All these texts contain quite specific examples of development in action: episodes, vignettes and plots that follow the expatriate, the ‘overseas American’, as he brings ideas of pragmatic development to the post-European sites of Asia or Africa. For Lederer and Burdick, Bellow and Hemingway, the fiction of development is also a stage for presenting a particular figure, the robust and neo-Rooseveltian pragmatic American who will replace the settlers, colonial administrators and fonctionnaires of European empire.