Student Taylor Davis reviews Dr. Lewallen’s Presentation on Norman Mailer

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This article is part of an occasional series in which English students interview faculty about their research and report back. Taylor Davis is a sophomore English major with a professional writing emphasis.

In “Armiesvs. Casablancastarring Norman Mailer as the Outlaw Hero,” Dr. Walter Lewallen demonstrates the crossing of Norman Mailer’s novel, The Armies of the Night, and Robert Ray’s reading of Casablancaby discussing the similar characteristics of being an outlaw hero between Mailer and Blaine/Bogart in order to explain the character contest between Mailer and Lowell. 

Dr. Lewallen presented this research work at the Normal Mailer Society Annual Conference in Sarasota, Florida in October 2017. Dr. Lewallen conducted this research work to bring to light the uncanny resemblance between Mailer’s novel, The Armies of the Night, and classic Hollywood films. 

Dr. Lewallen continuously studies and teaches narrative within American Literature; however, it is not popular to discuss a ‘master narrative,’ which he reads as the most powerful and most truth telling narrative, about America and within American Literature. Mailer, Lewallen argues, wanted to reveal the ‘master narrative.’ Mailer wanted to be the greatest American novelist, while revealing the truth of American and American Literature. While revealing the truth about America and American Literature, Mailer wanted to also be a hero and save the United States; he wanted to save his country. 

Dr. Lewallen found the writing and research process to be enjoyable and intriguing, especially regarding Mailer, classic Hollywood films, and the uncanny resemblance between them. Dr. Lewallen admitted to initially feeling intimidation when presenting to experts who have studied Norman Mailer for decades; however, he stood firm and presented the information he had researched, learned, and wanted to share.