Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tyson Gets It! - By Mitch - 4/28/13

After reading many of Lois Tyson's essays, there is finally one I agree with. The Great Gatsby is full of Eurocentrism. This story is taking place in America, a land that is home to the native Americans. But, every main character is white and exclusive, and some, such as Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway are even racist.
     Tyson writes that, "... the culturally privileged distance themselves emotionally from populations over whom they want to gain or maintain control." (Tyson 434) These people are some of the richest in America, they believe they are among everybody. Tyson has already pointed out to us the absence of African American culture in this story, showing that the novel lacks diversity. This is reinforced by the way that Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway express racism.
     Tom and Nick both say things that show their attitudes of Eurocentrism. For Tom this was already obvious to me. But for Nick, it didn't come as quickly. It wasn't entirely clear until Tyson writes that, "Whenever Nick has cause to mention people from a different culture he emphasizes their ethnicity as if that were their primary or only feature and thus foregrounds on their 'alien' quality." (Tyson 435) It is completely unfair to for any character in this story to do this, because to the native people of the land in which the story takes place, this race is alien.
     Gatsby reinforces his high class status by having many high class parties with random people. But, are they random. F. Scott Fitzgerald provides us with a guest list from one of Gatsby's extravagant parties. "Roebuck", "Schoen", "Eckhaust", "Cohen", "Schwartze." Are a few examples. These last names are all German or Polish, and the story uses these names as examples of "high class names". These names are not "high class" they are white names.
     The Great Gatsby is completely Eurocentric novel that criticizes white culture in America at the time. Lois Tyson hit a good point when she mentioned the fact that the whites are not biologically from America. The whites were the displaced culture and the one that was more culturally privileged. The novel demonstrates the privileged culture as the high class.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Great Gatsby Soundtrack!

Here is a link to an article about the soundtrack to the new film! Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

postcolonial crit

Bella Carrara
Postcolonial Criticism

                                                                Nick The Superior
                In this chapter of Critical Theory Today, Lois Tyson provides a strong reading of The Great Gatsby, by Fitzgerald, through a postcolonial lens. Her attempts at proving Gatsby's and Tom's acts of "othering" are persuasive, but her most convincing argument is shown through Nick Carraway.
                Tyson begins by discussing that "colonialist psychology finds in the insecure individual fertile ground on which to establish its self" (Tyson, 434). This is a prime set up to introduce Nick Carraway. Through out the novel, he is clearly concerned with his social status and fitting into the elite group with Gatsby. He is immediately portrayed as an insecure individual, being the lowest class in his social group. Tyson says, "Nick also has some personal insecurity that makes him need to feel he is in control, that makes him need to feel superior to others in some way" (438). Nick, not having nearly the fortune as his social peers, puts him at a "social disadvantage" (439). thus, he makes those who are not apart of the elite white class seem lesser to him.
              Nick's constant referral to his house maid as "The Finn" (Fitzgerald, 89) clearly displays Nicks reluctance to humanize the Finish woman. His continuous mention of her ethnicity begins to become a way of describing her while dehumanizing and "othering" her. She is not a member of Nick's white elitist group, she is an "other". Nick not only "others" people by highlighting their ethnicity, he also makes them inferior to him by describing their unattractive-stereotypical physic. Tyson discusses the multiple occurrences of when Nick references Wolfsheim's nose. She makes a striking point when she says, "Nick is demonizing Wolfsheim because this character is a criminal of rather vast proportions. But Nick foregrounds Wolfsheim's Jewishness to such a degree that even Wolfsheim's criminal status becomes associated with his ethnicity." (436).This statement is accurate; as we read about Wolfsheim we think, the Jewish criminal with the big nose, directly associating Jewish, criminal, and big nose together. This is exactly what Nick's goal is; to make himself seem superior to those of different ethnicities. Lastly, the most obvious and common tactic of dehumanization is mentioned when Tyson discusses when Nick refuses to black men as "bucks". Describing any person or race as an animal is an immediate reaction when attempting to lesser them.
                Lois Tyson's postcolonial reading of The Great Gatsby proves to be accurate and well presented. Her points are supported by clear evidence of Nick Carraway's personal insecurities and strive to be represented as superior to all "others" mentioned in the novel. Tyson pulls together all of the theories she has discussed and relates them together into one big picture presented in the postcolonial theory; she demonstrates that this theory is apparent in every day life. Congrats Tyson, you have seemed to sway my opinion of your far-fetched ideas and managed to help me realize the connection between all of the theories!

Monday, April 29, 2013


Amber Quinlan
Christie Beveridge 
LA: 11
29 April 2013

Overall Tyson explains all of the theories well, many of them hold my interest and they have all give examples of what the theories are and what the terms mean. That aspect of this is extremely helpful. However, there could be less repetitiveness through out all of the chapters. This specific chapter has been like most of the others, but there was one major difference. When she writes about The Great Gatsby through a Postcolonial view. For the majority of the chapter she has found where the characters have been “othering” other characters. Tyson has a strong argument that there is “othering” in The  Great Gatsby’’. Tyson says early on while introducing her point of view “Fitzgerald’s famous novel about American Jazz Age is the quintessential text about “othering”, a psychological operation on which colonialist ideology depends and that is its unmistakable hallmark.” This quote is saying that The Great Gatsby has a ton of “othering in it, when looking at The Great Gatsby through a Postcolonial view. Tyson explains how Nick Caraway is “othering” the people around him. He “others” Wolfsheim when he introduces him as a “small flat- nosed jew.” and then he also is “othering” The three African Americans with the white limousine driver when he calls them “bucks” referring to them as animals rather than humans. As I was reading through this I was thinking whether or not Nick was realizing he was doing this, because Nick is describe by Tyson as “the only character who cares about others, who takes a genuine personal interest in their happiness and their sorrows”, but then later in Tyson’s chapter she says why, Tyson says “One important reason is that, as a member of the dominant cultural group, he was programmed to do so. However, Nick also had some personal insecurity that made him need to feel in control.” Tyson also mentions earlier in this chapter that the main motives for “othering” are power and control. So, what do you think? Is Nick Caraway going out of his was to “other” people because of his insecurities or is he programmed to do so?

Colonialism in Gatsby

The way Tyson writes always irks me, but I found this theory and this reading to be one of her better works. the way that she folds the criticism into the story of Jay Gatsby is by far her best or least one of her best attempts at interpreting F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby through a literary lens.Tyson applies the idea of "that in order to subjugate an "alien people", a nation must convince itself those people are different"(Tyson 433). She then uses this post colonial ideology on the relationship between Old Money and New Money in Gatsby, a perfect parallel.She comments mainly on Nick Carraway's continuous subconscious judgment of people, stating that he "continually make judgments about others with no apparent consciousness of doing so"(Tyson 435). This constant judgement represents itself in his sayings "my Finn" (Fitzgerald 88) and "the Finn" (Fitzgerald 89), using the beginning phrases to establish a dominance over "his Finn", the Finnish woman who is Nick's house keeper. The constant portrayal of post colonial theory and mentality lends itself perfectly to this criticism, and is why I believe Tyson did so well at using this lens.

The Critical Theorist Within

Aidan Villani-Holland
Christie Beveridge
Language Arts II: Critical Theory
The Critical Theorist Within
            We have found the critical theorist within Lois Tyson! In the “Post Colonial Theory section of Critical Theory Today, Lois Tyson describes how The Great Gatsby relates to post colonial theory. In my opinion this is the strongest reading of Gatsby that we’ve seen in this book. In my opinion, though she poses valid points about Gatsby and Tom later in the chapter, by far the strongest points are near the beginning where she proves that, despite his easy-going attitude and general likeableness, Nick Caraway indeed practices a colonial mindset.
            On page 435, Tyson writes, “For example, the woman he has hired to keep his house and cook his breakfast, whom he sees every day, is referred to six different times and always by such appellations as ‘My Finn’(88; ch.5) and ‘the Finn’ (89; ch. 5). Her language consists of ‘muttering Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove’ (8; ch. 1) and even her walk – ‘the Finnish tread’” Here, Tyson presents overwhelming evidence of Nick’s colonial way of thinking through defining his housekeeper simply by her nationality and by defining everything she does as “Finnish” in some way.
            Later on the same page, Tyson writes, “Nick introduces Wolfsheim to us as a “small flat-nosed jew” (75; ch.4), and we are told very little else about his appearance except for his nose.” Here, Tyson again shows Nick’s colonial thought process by the fact that he not only describes Wolfsheim only by his nose, but he also describes his nose as, “jewish.” Nick also continues to describe Wolfsheim’s nose throughout the book, thus proving that that is the main aspect he thinks about, and backing up Tyson’s point.
            Finally, on page 436, Tyson writes about a scene where Gatsby describes African Americans in a limousine, “He describes them as ‘two bucks and a girl’ and says, ‘I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.” Here, Nick further proves Tyson’s point by describing black people like animals. This scene is the best example of Nick’s “othering,” as he puts the black men below himself by comparing them to animals.
            There were no parts of this section that were weak, but by far the strongest point was when she refers to Nick. Tyson is finishing strong with this section.

Post- what colony?: Response to Lois Tyson's Postcolonial reading of "Gatsby"

Lois Tyson's look at The Great Gatsby through Postcolonial criticism didn't seem to cover much new ground. That was my main problem with it; in many ways, I think that the relevance of the theory to this text is redundant to other interpretations. The term "Postcolonial" is also important, and I think this area of thought is, in some ways, misapplied. Finally, I think that the overlap between this lens and Psychoanalytic is interesting and was well applied in this essay.
In terms of redundancy, the most striking instance I saw was in how Tyson addressed African Americans in the novel. While certainly the experience of Africans and their descendants through their treatment by Europeans is very important to Postcolonial theory, it seems to me that it is not really necessary to address that aspect of the book in detail here. While a separate essay focusing entirely on Postcolonial theory within The Great Gatsby could certainly point to the African American experience, when there is an entire separate essay within the same book and written by the same author talking specifically about those issues, I think it becomes redundant for this essay. In fact, in the paragraphs talking about the few black characters and the non-appearance of Harlem, I thought for a moment that I had accidentally been reading the wrong essay and was actually in the African American section. Tyson writes that, "[I]t wouldn't be unreasonable to argue that the text falls short of the demands of its setting by not having one of the main characters visit a Harlem nightclub, or at least refer to a visit there, for that is surely what fashionable young white people such as the Buchanans, Nick, and Jordan would have done" (437). I hope that this passage was intentionally self-referential; otherwise, I question how much attention Tyson has been paying to her own writing. Similarly, it seemed to me that much of the time spent on the othering of lower social and economic classes was already covered in Marxist theory; I found it interesting and agreed with what she was saying, but in both of these cases I think that shorter sections, possibly directly referencing her earlier essays, would have sufficed to make her point.
As much of her essay draws on these other theories for analysis and support, I think that it is valid to question how the idea of colonialism itself is applied. Since the forms of oppression exercised over ethnic minorities and the poor are the focus of other theories, I think that they should really be applied here at most as a parallel example of belief systems like those that make up colonialism. Really, my main problem with both this essay and Postcolonial theory at large is how "colonialism" is interpreted; it seems to be used as a catch-all term for oppressive ideologies or the dehumanization, conscious or unconscious, of other groups. Although I do think that is a valid thing to look at, it does not seem to me to be specific enough to really qualify as "colonialist;" instead, I think that terms focused more on oppressive ideologies and societies are more descriptive and accurate, based on Tyson's essay. In a specific sense, I think that referring to economic oppression as "colonialist" is misleading and confusing. Oppression of ethnic minorities because of their race seems much more in line with Postcolonial theory's scope, and although I do think that African American theory is better suited for looking at most African American issues, I see the connection to colonialism much more clearly there than in economic issues. Of such issues, Morrison writes that, "Tom is also the character who most overtly exhibits the attitudes and behaviors associated with colonialist psychology ... Tom is a classist, and the belief in the inherent superiority of the upper class is one way in which colonialism justifies the domination of colonized peoples" (441). Clearly, the methods of oppressing economic inferiors and social inferiors are very similar to those used in the oppression of other races and colonized peoples and areas, but I think that the distinction is important; as far as I can see, these are separate oppressive ideologies which simply use similar tools of psychological abuse to oppress their victims.
The analysis of those methods is done well in this essay, and I think that is its strongest point. The discussing of othering and dehumanizing people based on the superficial groups they belong to is vital to understanding how colonialism historically operated and how it has continued to have a role in the modern world. Again, I think that the aspects of her essay focusing on Marxist issues belong more in a separate essay, like the one she happens to have written focused entirely and specifically on the economic oppression she talks about. I think that having specific connections to historical examples of what she points to in the book being used in actual colonialism and imperialism would have been especially interesting. I found the ways she applied facets of Psychoanalytic criticism here to be strong, but still don't entirely see their connections to Postcolonialism or the operation of real colonization and the large-scale, institutional abuse of ethnic groups and geographic areas. Although similar to how minorities are oppressed in America or European nations now and how the poor are abused, I think the differences are important. That she focused on these is understandable because of the lack of direct connections within the text (in the same way as African American criticism didn't have much of a foothold in The Great Gatsby), but I think that not connecting to the substantive history of colonialism was a missed opportunity.

For further thinking: Am I right or wrong about the overlap of other theories with Postcolonialism? Do they have more application here and is using them as the substance of a Postcolonial essay valid?

Gatsby Post-Colonialism

Seth Evans-Diffenderfer
Christie Beveridge
Language Arts
29 April 2013

                I think that Tyson’s post-colonial reading of The Great Gatsby was probably the most solid out of all the lenses we’ve read so far. At first, it seemed to me that she was harping a lot on the point of othering, for instance, writing, “he emphasizes their ethnicity as if that were their primary or only feature and thus foregrounds their “alien” quality. For example, the woman he has hired to keep his house and cook his breakfast, whom he sees every day, is referred to six different times and always by such appellations as ‘my fin’”. Othering, while perhaps being the most psychologically important aspect of colonialism, should not be the only point in a post colonial reading. However, towards the end, she did bring up a few other intriguing points supporting her reading through this lens.
                Once Tyson began to move away from Nick’s othering of other’s ethnicities, I began to look more favorably toward the reading. The second character that she applies to post-colonialism is Jay Gatsby, whom she claims represents a colonial subject, “Its subtle social codes and gradations of social status are unfamiliar to him, and he can’t quite get the hang of them.” This was just about the first time that Tyson had anything to say about the psychology of the colonialists, which is what she promised in the introduction to her essay, but when she finally got past the obvious alienation of other cultures that occurs in post-colonialism, what she had to say made up for the first half of the essay.
                Finally, Tyson discusses Tom, the old money type that would have been behind the colonization of the new world. Tyson argues that although he is of low moral character he is still kept in his economic position because of his heritage, “Tom is clearly the most culturally privileged character in the novel. Despite his lack of personal refinement and he “ungentlemanly behavior, he has all the cultural advantages afforded by race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, gender, family, and education.” I think Tyson could have definitely gone a little more in depth with the psychology of Tom, but instead she chose to write about his relationship with the colonial subject Myrtle, which is equally as engaging a point to read about, it just didn’t quite live up to Tyson’s promise of psychology focus.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

With all due respect Tyson, I think you're talking about Psychoanalytical!

After reading the explanation of Postcolonial theory in Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today, and then reading its application to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, one wonders, why on earth would The Great Gatsby be a fitting example of postcolonial theory.  Seeing as though Tyson’s text uses Gatsby throughout for the application of lenses, this analysis becomes slightly more fitting, but it would seem that there are many other texts, where the Postcolonial analysis would not be nearly as convoluted.  My reaction to the analysis can easily be broken down into two distinct categories: thoroughly agreeing, and utter confusion.
            Let us start with the agreed upon parts.  Sadly, there were not many parts, but it is critical to say, I believe Tyson has a strong point here, and she should have furthered the point by elaborating on it, as opposed to pushing it aside.  This point, being mimicry throughout Gatsby caught my eye.  Earlier in the chapter on Postcolonial criticism, the term mimicry was defined as, “Colonialized people mimicking that of the colonizers.”  While this may not seem to line up immediately with The Great Gatsby, Tyson eventually sold the point.  She points out how, “…Gatsby fabricated an upper class family and invented a past that includes an Oxford education, big-game hunting; living ‘like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe’…”  This is simply undeniable.  Jay Gatsby changed who he perceived himself as, to fit into a group which he most identified with.  While I may or may not believe that this should be constituted as post colonialism, I do believe that this fits with the term mimicry brilliantly.
            A root of many of my misunderstandings may be that the name, post colonialism seems to be misleading to me.  This could be accredited to the example application being Gatsby, but it would seem to me, that instead, Postcolonialism should be known as classism, or even as “colonialist psychology,” a term which Tyson mentions in passing.  Colonialsm simply has too many connotations, and conjures up images, which do not jibe with the point that is trying to be proven by Tyson.  Tyson shows this very point when she mentions, “There are many more examples of Tom’s unnecessary and open hostility toward his social inferiors, but the point is that he wouldn’t need to display his social superiority so aggressively if he were secure in it.” or when he says, “If you’re not on top, you’re nobody.”  What this should say, is that as opposed to having Post colonialism, which is described as an amalgamation of theories, there she be numerous, clean cut ones.  It would seem to me from that description that Tom suffers from serious insecurity and fear of betrayal even, (psychoanalytical) and is a classist slob, (my own scholarly jargon).  With all due respect Lois, you are over thinking this.
            At this point in time, I do not feel that I have a thorough enough grasp on the actual use of Postcolonial theory to judge the lens itself, but I do feel comfortable speaking on my opinion about Tyson’s application, to The Great Gatsby.  All in all, the lens felt like it would be far better off analyzing something else.  I do appreciate that Tyson mentioned the less than optimal nature of the analysis, but instead of trying to cobble a writing together, I would have preferred to see Tyson scrap The Great Gatsby and instead examine an applicable text.

Do you think The Great Gatsby should be examined through Postcolonial criticism? Why or why not?  Do you think Post colonialism is a misleading name for the lens?  Do you think another lens could take the place of Post colonialism?  How do Psychoanalytical and Post colonialism overlap?  How do other lenses overlap with Post colonialism. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where's Harlem? It's right there Tyson.

        Lois Tyson's African American reading of The Great Gatsby was extremely uninformative, far fetched, and filled with useless "evidence". To start with, Tyson did not give any insight on how to read with an African American lens.She focused too much on Fitzgeralds lack of saying the word Harlem and proving he was racist than taking textual evidence and supporting it with the terms she taught as in the previous chapter. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I saw very few of those terms as she tried to convince us that The Great Gatsby is a racist novel.
         Tyson begins the African American reading of The Great Gatsby with five pages of quite useless information that does not do much to prove her point. Tyson talks about how things such as the prohibition, fashion, and cars are mentioned while Harlem is not. She says, "current fashions, though in some ways less important than historical events and the people who made them happen, nevertheless render an important aspect of cultural history by giving us a sense of the era's collective self-perception and attitude towards life." (pg 389.) The fashion choices made by people in the 1920s rendered great importance to their social class. Thus, being why Fitzgerald included a lot of description about people's physical appearances, mainly at Gatsby's parties. Since Gatsby's parties and social status played large roles in the novel, the appearances of people were vital details to add to the story for more context .Tyson also comments on the strong presence of the prohibition. Drinking was obviously a very important part of the 20s, as Fitzgerald understood, thus he gave it a prominent role in his novel. Tyson says, "we see it, for example, in the heavy drinking that occurs at every party depicted in the novel and in the availability of alcohol almost everywhere." (pg 397.) next she says, "Indeed, breaking this law become the fashionable thing to do." (pg 397.) Drinking, is yet another sign of social status, and because The Great Gatsby has a large focus on Gatsby's parties, including comments about the prohibition was a vital component to the story, seeing as it was going on at the same time as the parties. Lastly, Tyson comments on the prominent references to automobiles. Which again, is an important part to the story since Myrtle is killed in an automobile accident. Tyson gives great evidence for why attention to these components are incorporated with such detail; because they are necessary pieces to the story line. African Americans, however, are not. There is little mention of Harlem and the African American society, because they play little to no role in the plot line. So what if the main characters did go to a club in Harlem? That would be an unnecessary detail. The upper class clearly only associated themselves with those of the same class, and payed no attention to those of a lower class. They were too busy showing their self worth to care, Fitzgerald felt the same way, and only provided information about people of the middle and upper class.
         Tyson rants about one single quote from Nick Carraway, commenting on the look African American people gave him as they drove by. It is unfair and absurd to accuse the entire novel of being racist by the mention of African Americans ONCE throughout the whole book. Also, Tyson claims that Nick, even though he is scholarly and "rather literary", is oblivious to the existence of Harlem. No, he is not oblivious to it, he is just not associated with it, nor does it serve an importance to him.
         I do not disagree that Fitzgerald or The Great Gatsby may have been racist, but I also do not believe that Harlem was an essential part to the novel. Tyson's African American reading of The Great Gatsby is filled with filibusters, far-fetched accusations, and information-less ways to read The Great Gatsby through an African American lens.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Honestly, I thought this was one of Tyson's worst interpretations so far. It provided no insight as to how to interpret a piece of literature through an African American lens, and instead devoted multiple pages describing how amazing of a place Harlem was at the time The Great Gatsby was written. Lines such as, "By the early 1920s, the automobile had become the new machine that everyone wanted" (Tyson-400) simply exist to put a date on the events in the book, and yet this sort of information constitutes a solid chunk of the reading. Through this reading, Tyson is also simply pointing out something that should be obvious: the characters in The Great Gatsby are very, very racist. Tom specifically says, "The idea is if we don’t look out the white race— will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved" (Fitzgerald-18). It shouldn't be surprising that Nick doesn't mention Harlem, the characters don't visit Harlem because they do not enjoy African Americans, they are afraid of them. While many upper class members did enjoy Harlem night clubs, there were also many that had negative feeling towards them, which is what Fitzgerald writes in his "representative American novel of the Jazz age" (Tyson-396). Fitzgerald chose to represent this feeling in his novel, possibly because he was racist, but not decidedly.

Blog post 3/5/13 African American Reading

Ellis Govoni
Christie Beveridge
Critical Theory
March 5th, 2013

In Louis Tyson’s reading of The Great Gatsby, in the lenses of African American reading, she seems to make some quite apt points. She refers to the fact that during the time period this story takes place, it is a time of night life; with outrageous parties and music with many interesting people, all of which seem to come from just about all over New York city as well as other countries, except Harlem. This is perplexing because while Gatsby and his distinguished colleagues were throwing these lavish parties, there was not a single mention to the also present “Harlem Renaissance.” This would support a theory of racism within the characters or possibly with in Fitzgerald himself. In a passage written by Louis Tyson, we can confirm Nicks “un-self-conscious racism” in chapter four. In Chapter four, Gatsby and Nick are driving into the city to have lunch and Nick sees “three modish Negros” in a limousine, driven by a white chauffer. The importance of the word modish in this circumstance implies that the modern racist views often thought of black people as being foolish or childish, the opposite of what they were seeing which is why it was pointed out in the first place.   Secondly In Louis Tyson’s interpretation of self aware black people of power, though It seems blunt and very simply, she says, “These black characters— fashionably dressed, riding in a chauffeured limousine, very conscious of their social status in the eyes of others -- are the mirror and shadow of Gatsby.” I agree with this statement because, though the possibly racist tendencies of the characters would suggest other wise, they are both of the same status. This is a very common situation that is found when in context of dealing with something such as race; people do not want to think that they are of the same class as someone of a different race. Then Tyson later goes on to say the only noticeable difference is that Gatsby can hide his past, which would lead to the again unjust assumption that the “Negros” have skeletons in their past or something of that ilk.  Thirdly and finally we come to strange and rather obvious point of being that fact that during all of the great parties that Gatsby hosts, why is it that with such a large populous of talented black musicians and artist, that not a single mention of a black person.

Harlem Hidden by Society

I don’t think Fitzgerald was racist.  Given the time period, he grew up before black people were treated the same as whites.  There was still a strong racist feeling in some parts of the Country, and the KKK was out spreading their ideas in all parts of the US.  I think Fitzgerald was a little worried about promoting Harlem, which would be promoting music produced by black people.  It was just how things were.  Whites, a lot of the time, didn't feel comfortable praising black achievements.  That doesn't mean he was racist, though, in my opinion.  I think the reason that Fitzgerald referred to The Rise of the Colored Empires was, again, because of the times in which he grew up in.  An example of that would be the restrictive Immigration Bill mentioned by Lois Tyson.  America was in a time of worry and prejudice.  Readers: do you think that Fitzgerald, or other people for that matter, should be labeled as “racist” just because of some things that they did “suggest” racism?

Where did Harlem go?

Amber Quinlan 
Christie Beveridge 
Language Arts 
5 March 2013

Through out this reading of African American Criticism, unlike many of the other readings in this book, I agreed with what Lois Tyson was saying. Before reading this theory about Fitzgerald being racist, It didn’t seem like he was being racist. After I thought about The Great Gatsby with this knowledge it seemed racist when Nick refers to the African Americans in the limo,”Three modish Negros.. a limousine driven by a white chauffeur” because he is pointing in out that the African Americas are bring driven around by a white chauffeur shows that Fitzgerald is being racist, but that is not where is stops. If you look though the history and the time period Harlem was a huge part of New York City, like Tyson said. “ The creative output of the Harlem Renaissance was, as we have seen, well known to white New Yorkers and to the Western world at large.... From a historical perspective, such a oversight is virtually impossible.” Thinking about why Fitzgerald did not at least mention Harlem, or where Jazz music came from, can be confusing, because there could be other reasons he didn’t put this piece of history in The Great Gatsby, but after looking at the history and knowing that he knew about Harlem, that makes it seem like he purposely left this out of his book. “Even the time Fitzgerald spent in Paris contributed to his awareness of Harlem... African Americans many of whom were from Harlem, established an expatriate artists’ colony in Paris.” Especially when the book is a representation of this time period, it is hard to think of a explanation as to why Fitzgerald left Harlem out of his book when everything else he had written about was a valid representation of this time period. Are there any other reasons Fitzgerald would have left Harlem out of his book? Are there any other important parts of history that Fitzgerald left out in The Great Gatsby?

Das Racist

I don't normally agree with Lois Tyson, but she surprised me with this look at Gatsby. i had at first been skeptical of the theory, and didn't like the terms, but her application of the theory showed me a different story than the one that Fitzgerald's hand crafted oh so long ago. The main theme of her essay asking where Harlem was really opened my eyes. The Jazz Age in New York revolved around Harlem, but Fitzgerald omits all mention of it, even though, as Tyson points out, "it's the place that was famous for attracting white folks to its nightclubs in droves"(Tyson 396). Tyson points out that almost all of the characters in the story (excluding Mr. and Mrs. Wilson). And you would think Gatsby would be dying to go there, because "it was where they could be seen by the in crowd and drink bootlegged liquor"(Tyson 396). Gatsby was always trying to assume a higher social standing, and Harlem would have allowed him to achieve it (possibly). The blacks are fully removed from the story, except in instances where the high class white folks are being racist, such as Tom when he says "the dominant Nordic race is being threatened by the intermarriage...with persons of inferior races"(Gatsby 22). This reduction of the blacks and ignorance of the importance of Harlem a book that is decidedly Eurocentric. But the one thing that comes to mind is "Did Fitzgerald mean to omit it?"

African American Criticism: Surprisingly Reasonable

Aidan Villani-Holland
Christie Beveridge
Language Arts
5 March 2013
African American Criticism: Surprisingly Reasonable
            Going into the beginning of the, “Where’s Harlem,” chapter of Critical Theory Today, I was skeptical to say the least about how Lois Tyson was going to connect African American criticism to The Great Gatsby. When she started saying it was racist simply because it didn’t mention Harlem, I was ready to be angry. However, her points actually made a surprising amount of sense given the small amount of material available.
            On page 402, Tyson writes, “West 158th street in Manhattan is the location of the apartment Tom keeps for his trysts with Myrtle (32; ch. 2), which means that their taxi has to pass by Harlem, if not pass through it, to get to their destination. It would seem that it isn’t racist to not mention a place, but I had not realized how involved Harlem actually should have been in the story. While it is possible for a character to pass through a place without mentioning it, this practice seems to go against Fitzgerald’s habit of describing everything that happens, in order to establish a sense of setting.
            Later on the same page, Tyson asks, “How then, can narrator Nick Carraway and his friends have missed Harlem? Harlem’s nightclubs, which offered such jazz greats as Eubie Blake, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and Cab Calloway, attracted white people from all over the city and beyond.” This quote is a summary of Tyson’s main point. Throughout The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald seems to mention every single example of culture during the 20’s except for the nightclubs and other aspects of Harlem that should have involved Nick and his friends. While this is one of her weaker points, it still holds up.
            Finally, Tyson mentions on the next page, the musical comedy, Shuffle Along, which was a huge hit and entirely performed by African Americans. Again, this attempt to make Fitzgerald look racist seems futile at first, but she then describes that, “This means that it was running in the summer of 1922.” Since it apparently, “took New York by storm,” and was running precisely during the time period of The Great Gatsby, this play just seems to perfectly placed not to appear anywhere in the novel.
            Despite my original thoughts, I did come to realize that Lois Tyson actually made some fair points in this section. Each individual point was a little weak, once the three I mentioned as well as many more are combined, it seems absurd that Harlem was not even mentioned once in the entire novel. IT was not uncommon in his time, but from this evidence, it seems fairly clear that Fitzgerald was at least a little racist.

If Fitzgerald was involved in Harlem often, why do you think he omitted it?
Do you think that his omission was truly racist, or that it just didn’t fit into the story?
Could it be that the characters are in fact racist, and not Fitzgerald himself?

But Where's Harlem? No seriously? Where is it?

(Note: The following blog post may contain sarcasm)

Lois Tyson asks, “But Where’s Harlem?” My answer is “Why? I thought this was going to be about African American criticism, not a place in New York that wasn’t mentioned. Unless you’re hinting at a stereotype, in which case, that would make you racist.” I can sympathize with Lois Tyson because it is true that The Great Gatsby is difficult to analyze through an Afroamerican lens. What Lois Tyson should not have done in this case, was fill her chapter full of fluff in order to make it occupy a certain number of pages. “He was a German spy during the war.” And that has everything to do with the lack of African Americans in The Great Gatsby. And then she goes on to talk about the style of the time, and then she states, “No doubt modern times have arrived.” Ok, sweet, this is still very flimsy and vague but I’ll keep reading because I feel like we may get to read about what we’re interested in soon. And then for the last five pages we see that Lois Tyson explains thoroughly that there are just completely no African American people or culture in The Great Gatsby. Nick was a Yale Graduate but he doesn’t know about Harlem? Well maybe he did. I know that if I myself were in the middle of an awkward relationship and trying to stop my friend from practically killing himself over a woman I would not be concerned about listing off the names of New York City’s various districts because it totally has relevance to my situation.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Think I Found Harlem: Response to African-American Reading of "The Great Gatsby"

While I agree that there is a racist element to The Great Gatsby, I again think Lois Tyson went too far. Before she had brought in external evidence of Fitzgerald's life, she had already concluded that The Great Gatsby is a racist work. I think that, even if other evidence suggests Fitzgerald himself was racist, the novel itself serves to critique racism. In fact, on some level, I think that was Fitzgerald's goal. I appreciated the evidence she gave about Fitzgerald himself (though I question its representation of him), but I did not like how much Tyson strayed from the topic or, again, her wide-ranging assumptions from scanty evidence.

The majority of the essay actually talking about Fitzgerald or race was focused on his personal views and what he said and did in his life. I appreciated her bringing that in, and understood the necessity--with so few mentions of race in the novel, I can see why she needed to flesh out the essay with outside information. While not all of it seemed entirely relevant, I do think she did a good job of making the case that Fitzgerald himself was racist. The amount of time she pointed out that he spent in Harlem and associating with black people undermined that, and not all the evidence really seemed to substantially support that thesis; for example, her discussion of his relationships with Carl Van Vechten and Bricktop both seem to me to contradict her belief in his racism. While she points to his having the (black female) singer Bricktop in his house "as a hired musician, not as a friend and equal" (Stovall 80) being a sign of racism, I don't think it's particularly significant. Instead, it illustrates that he did have an appreciation for music and art produced by the Harlem Renaissance. Regularly hiring a black singer to come to his house is not racist, nor does it seem likely to be something a particularly racist person would do. In general, I suspect there is more to his views on race than what Tyson presents--the vitriolic and extreme letter excerpts, for instance, seem out of the norm for him. Based on the evidence she presents, Fitzgerald certainly seems to have been quite racist. However, this does not prove that The Great Gatsby was.

Tyson really did not talk much about race in the novel. Tyson says: "Although we'll devote several paragraphs to establishing the novel's strong sense of place--and I hope you'll bear with me in this effort--do keep in mind that we'll only be scratching the surface of the innumerable ways in which Fitzgerald evokes this specific place and time" (397). She then spends about 5 pages extensively examining the various parts of life he talks about, from Prohibition and criminals to fashion and culture. While both The Great Gatsby and Harlem are mentioned in this section, they are rarely connected. Indeed, the tangible connections between her essay and its subject are few and far between here. Again, I understand that there isn't a lot within the novel to talk about with this lens, but to spend so much time and text establishing how thoroughly Fitzgerald "evokes this specific place and time" seems disingenuous and reminds me more of a student tightening their margins and upping their font size than an English professor writing an essay within a book. A few brief paragraphs could have done just as good a job as the 5 pages she uses, especially as so much of it seems to be filler like the very long lists of names she repeatedly includes.

Finally, the problem which persists throughout her writing: scanty evidence used to justify large conclusions. I saw this mostly in her discussion of race within "he Great Gatsby, despite the small amount of time spent on that versus time spent on Fitzgerald and the time period. As is evident from the title, "But where's Harlem?: an African American reading of The Great Gatsby," the focus of the part of her essay on race in the novel is on the very few mentions of black people or Harlem. For instance, she writes, "Had Fitzgerald remained true to form in his description of cultural reality, Nick and his friends would have visited ... a Harlem nightclub ... there's no way that Tom and Daisy, who consider themselves so fashionably modern, would have missed Harlem" (404). The fact that they don't does, indeed, point to their racism, but I disagree that it points to the novel itself as fundamentally racist. For one, Tyson's assertion that Tom and Daisy pride themselves on being "so fashionably modern" ignores the deep-rooted struggle between old and new money. Tom and Daisy, rather than wanting to be modern, are deeply in love with the idea of belonging to the aristocracy of old money on the East Coast. Indeed, they both make no secret of their racism. To Nick, Tom says that "'[I]f we don’t look out the white race will be--will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved ... It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.' 'We’ve got to beat them down,' whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun" (Fitzgerald 16). Many prominent white people did spend plenty of time in Harlem, but I seriously doubt that Tom and Daisy would have. Tyson quotes the novel and then goes on: the Buchanans went "'wherever people played polo and were rich together' (10; ch. 1). If Tom and Daisy go where other wealthy whites of the period go to 'be rich together,' they would have visited Harlem on a fairly regular basis" (404). If their goal was just to be rich, they might have done so, but that was not their goal. They wanted to be where people "played polo and were rich together" (emphasis added). I would argue that the first half of that paragraph was just as important as the second; the sorts of people who play polo are the sorts who stay in their mansions, are of old money and only mix with other old money. Similarly, the other characters in the book either have old money, pretend to, or want to. As such, I would be rather more surprised if they did go to Harlem than if they didn't; hip a neighborhood as it was, it was still black and as such unacceptable for the traditional and established families of this novel. This also explains the lack of black characters (like the white jazz musicians employed by Gatsby). Because of their desire to be seen as sophisticated, powerful, wealthy individuals and families, it does not seem surprising that the characters would employ white rather than black people (although, as far as I can tell, the only indication of the orchestra being white is the lack of explicit statement that it is black). In fact, because of Nick's negative reaction to Tom's racist assertions and generally not saying racist things, he seems to be (if anything) less racist than most people in his era.

All in all, I think that the characters of The Great Gatsby are indeed racists, by and large. Fitzgerald himself may have been a racist. But the novel itself is not racist, and even challenges racism at times; Nick's reaction to Tom is the only clear example of this, but as I see it the fairly ubiquitous racism displayed (again, rarely and more by absence of other actions than events) was condemned just as the wasteful, shallow attitudes that characterized the Jazz Age were. As per the usual, Tyson came to some unreasonable conclusions, but I think she did a fairly good job in the wrong areas (that is, establishing the importance of contemporary black culture and demonstrating Fitzgerald's racism).

So, some questions: Do you think the book is racist? The characters? Fitzgerald?
Why do you think Harlem wasn't represented in the book?
Do you think the characters actually would have visited Harlem in real life, or would their upbringing and personalities have kept them away?

Oh, and one last thing: Where's Harlem? Harlem is in northern Manhattan, between the Hudson and Fifth Ave and West 110th Street to 155th Street. I know that New York can be confusing, but come on, Tyson, do a little research; you could have looked at a map instead of asking us.

Fitzgerald, Why Didn't You Mention, "New York's Hottest Club"?

After reading the explanation of African American Criticism, hearing from others about their takes on it, and knowing my previous reactions to Tyson’s analyses, I was expecting to disagree completely with her reading.  After all, how on earth could she apply African American Criticism to a text, which mentioned African Americans so little?  And this is where I had gone wrong.
            Tyson opens the chapter with, “One of the hallmarks of the writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald is the strong evocation of sense of place.”  This line carries through her entire analysis of The Great Gatsby but only rang clear in my head towards the end.  Initially, I agreed with her that Fitzgerald illustrates a meticulously thought out setting for the novel, but did not understand how the lens could be used with this.  What hit me though, was I had been blindsided by my lack of knowledge surrounding the Jazz Age in New York, or the Jazz age, period.  It had never even occurred to me that the jazz age was what Gatsby and his fellow nouveau riche citizens were living in, or that this so called Jazz age was a product of African Americans.  At the beginning though, I read that as, “See- Fitzgerald is weaving in African American culture, and is in no way bashing it.”  Going on though, I began to slowly jump on Tyson’s bandwagon.
            What truly got me, was Tyson’s explanation of Harlem, and its role in the lives of young, upper-class New York City citizens in the 1920’s.  As Tyson puts it, “There was no livelier place in all of New York City, especially after dark.  Nightly, thousands of white visitors-most from downtown, some from other parts of the country, a few from cities abroad-made their way to Harlem.”  The fact that the Harlem born Jazz Age was so integral to the plot of The Great Gatsby, and Harlem was, “New York’s hottest club,” but never mentioned in a book which encompassed these themes really threw me off.  It was now becoming clear that Fitzgerald had purposefully excluded African Americans from The Great Gatsby.
            This suspicion was reaffirmed when Tyson quoted a letter, which Fitzgerald wrote.  When someone says,
“The Negroid streak creeps northward to defile the Nordic race.  Already the Italians have souls of blackamoors [black or dark-skinned people].  Raise the bars of immigration [in the United States] and permit only Scandinavians, Teutons [people of Germanic or Celtic origin], Anglo-Saxon and Celts [British, Scottish or Irish people] to enter.”

There is simply no denying that this is racist.  It cannot be argued, or viewed in a different light; this quote written by Fitzgerald to a friend, is outright racist against blacks.  To me, it shows that the exclusion of African American culture from The Great Gatsby was not to highlight the lives of Gatsby and Nick, but to avoid a subject, which Fitzgerald was highly uncomfortable with.  And this is where I gained respect for Tyson.  I did not see it as a stretch to say that Fitzgerald was purposefully alienating African Americans, and because of this, I believe that the application of the African American lens to The Great Gatsby works stellar.
            At first, I did not want to agree with Tyson, partly because of previous readings, partly because of my interpretation of The Great Gatsby and partly because of what I had heard.  But now, I am confident that she hit the nail on the head.  At the beginning, I thought that Fitzgerald had simply not talked about African American culture- it wasn’t relevant, right?  Wrong, turns out, I was completely wrong.  With the historical content, it become clear that Fitzgerald had attempted to rewrite reality, exclude those who weren’t of his “Nordic Race,” and delude his readers into believing that African Americans played a small to unimportant role in New York City in the 1920’s.  Seeing the racism exude from his correspondence could only reaffirm this, and frankly made me cringe.  Tyson- I applaud you for brining such purposeful exclusion and racism to light.

Can the absence of details be analyzed?  Is it fair to judge the author on what they did not elaborate on?  How do you think Fitzgerald felt about the Jazz Age?  Would he have liked it even more had it been a European affair?  How do you think his views changed throughout his life? 

Monday, January 7, 2013

EVERYBODY'S (insert theory here)!.......again

Lois Tyson's queer theory reading of The Great Gatsby serves to portray that Nick Carraway is a closet homosexual. And that idea can be seen in certain instances, such as at the party at Tom and Myrtle's apartment, where Nick wipes the lather from Mr. Mckee's face because it "had worried me all the afternoon" (Gatsby 41), as Nick describes. Tyson takes this scene and claims that it "implies the progression of a homoerotic attraction between the two men" (CTT 344). This attraction can be seen, and one might certainly have agreed with her entire essay, had she stuck with the fact that Nick Carraway was the homosexual main character of The Great Gatsby. But Tyson goes on to proclaim that almost every other character is homosexual: "Tom continuously...suggests a need to reassure himself of his heterosexuality" (CTT 345) and "Jordan Baker, whose name could belong to a man or a woman, is associated with numerous lesbian signs" (CTT 346). But seriously? If Jordan was a lesbian, then she and Nick would not have had sex. And Tom, although he constantly asserts his power over Nick, that assertion is only because of Nick's inherent shy and manipulable nature, which could stem from his possible (but very likely) homosexuality. Overall, Tyson makes some decent arguments, but her argument falls short when she tries to apply it to EVERY DAMN CHARACTER.

Response To Lois Tyson's Gay Criticism

I do not agree with Lois Tyson’s “Will the Real Nick Carraway Please Come Out?” She takes the most minor signs that could usually be found in any work and uses them to call almost the entire cast gay. She starts by pointing out that, “These two young women are a striking example of same-sex ‘doubles’ that function as lesbian signs.” To that I ask, can two women not be friends? Can they not wear the same color without being called lesbian? She then calls a pink suit a “gay sign”. “An Oxford man!... Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit” With the quote she provided, it sounds more like a pink suit is closer to pathetic as it is to gay, the pink suit just looks dumb because a true “Oxford man” would wear a black suit for example. Finally, she supports all of this by saying that, “Jordan Baker, whose name could belong to a man or a women,” is hinting on her being gay after having relations with Nick Carraway, who is also somehow supposed to be gay. The details that she points out in her reading are just too flimsy to prove to me that the characters are gay.

Will the real Lois Tyson please Shut Up!

Lois Tyson may have had a relatively decent point in her queer theory reading if she had had a stable and consistent thesis. If Tyson had just stuck to proving that Nick Carraway was gay, then she could have had a solid essay on her hands. However, Tyson strays often from her point, implying that Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan are gay, and that Jordan is as well. In fact, the only person in the novel who Lois Tyson doesn’t try to shove into the ‘closet’ is Daisy. Tyson tries to prove Gatsby’s homosexual interests by pointing out his new money wardrobe, “and his impeccable wardrobe features various shades of lavender and pink, two colors that have been long associated with gayness.” (345) Throughout the novel, Gatsby’s garish choices in clothing and design is a sign of his new money and need to show off, not his sexual preference. Tyson continues to blindly grab at straws as she tries to prove her convoluted points. Lois Tyson has a rare moment of truth when she gets around to proving the homosexual interests of Nick with Mr. McKee. She points that after Nick is with Mr. McKee, he doesn’t remember anything, “until he wakes up at four o’clock in the morning on the floor of the train station (so whatever occurred in the interim has the status of a repressed memory).” (344-345) However, Tyson quickly returns to her usual fluff-filled nonsense, trying to prove everyone's gayness, and even referring to a movie adaptation of the novel. Any point Tyson could have proven about the two women at the party becomes null when she mentions that, "the depiction of these two characters in the 1974 film version of the novel are that film's only concession to the possibility of a queer dimension..." (344) The book was written long before the movie and so nothing that happens in the movie can prove a point in the book. If Tyson had quit while she were ahead, and just proven the homosexuality of Nick, she could have produced a viable point and a decent essay. However, she stretched her theory too thin, trying to apply her idea to everyone in the book.

Do you think Nick Carraway really is gay?
Do you think Tyson was right to project her theory onto nearly every character?

Tyson Queer Theory Reading Response

Seth Evans-Diffenderfer
Christie Beveridge
Language Arts 11
January 4, 2013

 I started out the reading hating it, which admittedly did not lead to an unbiased reading, but I wound up having mixed feelings. Firstly, I hate the idea of “gay signs,” the idea that we can identify someone’s sexuality from their personality infuriates me (although, there is a very strong argument to be made for that line of thinking, which kind of leaves a bitter taste in my mouth). Although I hated Tyson’s revealing of the characters’ “gay signs”, Nick Carraway is without a doubt either gay or bisexual. He undoubtedly sex with Mr. McKee, illustrated clearly by the lines, “I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear,” (pg. 344) honestly, what else could they have been doing? However, whether or not I was biased to start with, there were a few glaringly obvious flaws with Tyson’s queer interpretation of The Great Gatsby, the majority of which being copious cases of crystalline clear contradictions.

            Firstly, Tyson makes an argument for Nick’s attraction to New York City showing a representation of his homosexuality by arguing that the city represents, to him, more or less, a city for gay people, “Where in the East does he go? He goes to New York City, which both he and Jordan associate with transgressive sexuality.” (pg. 348) Okay, not my main point in this paragraph, but there are two things wrong with this sentence before I even get to my main point. Firstly, according to Microsoft, transgressive isn’t even a word. Secondly, neither Nick nor Jordan express an association of homosexuality with New York, they express an association of sexual freedom, which in terms of The Great Gatsby’s promiscuous themes, is more related to sleeping around with multiple partners than homosexuality. Aside from the fact that this is a bogus argument towards Nick’s homosexuality to start with, Tyson contradicts herself later in the chapter, saying, “So repelled is Nick by the moral laxity of New York…” (pg. 349) If Nick is repelled by New York City, and to him (according to Tyson), The Big Apple represents homosexuality, then I’d say it’s fair to assume that Tyson has inadvertently come to the conclusion that Nick is in fact a heterosexual.

            Another invalid argument that Tyson makes regards the twins that Tyson argues represent “same-sex ‘doubles’ that function as lesbian signs.” (pg. 344) These two represent nothing in the book more than the wild zany crew that make up Gatsby’s parties. That’s not the real issue though, the problem that I take offense to is Tyson’s inclusion of the lines, “In fact, the depiction of these two characters in the 1974 film version of the novel are that film’s only concession to the possibility of a queer dimension in the story: in the film, the women are portrayed dancing together in a manner the sexual meaning of which cannot be missed.” (pg. 344) Tyson seems to forget that she is supposed to be writing a queer theory interpretation of a book, and not of some director’s interpretation of that book. It also seems to slip her mind that films often sexualize scenes to get the attention of the heterosexual male and homosexual female audience.

            Since I proclaimed to have mixed feelings about the reading, I suppose I should go a bit into that. I think Tyson made an excellent point early on in the chapter that she could have turned into an excellent queer theory interpretation of The Great Gatsby, “For one thing, the three romantic triangles that generate most of the novel’s action are all adulterous: Daisy, Tom, and Myrtle are all breaking their marital values.” (pg. 343) I was actually quite excited to hear Tyson talk about how every heterosexual relationship in the book is incredibly flawed, and how Fitzgerald uses that to support homosexuality, but there was not a single mention of this argument beyond the previously quoted lines. I like the idea of basing queer theory readings on relationships a lot more than on flimsy evidence that a character may or may not be a closet homosexual.

            In conclusion, I think there’s a very strong argument to be made for a queer interpretation of The Great Gatsby, and I believe it’s very possible that Fitzgerald may have written it with that specifically in mind, but Tyson was not the one to reveal that hidden meaning. She uses flimsy evidence that she often contradicts only a few paragraphs later; all in all, I’d say this was one of her weaker interpretations.

1)    How might the classic patriarchal relationship displayed on shows like The Flinstones (Fred/Wilma), or The Lucy Show, (Lucy/Ricky Ricardo) be interpreted through a queer theory lens?

2)    What does the overly sexualized nature of our advertising say about our country’s innate desire to be heterosexual?

3)    Why do you think it is that in media, lesbianism seems to regarded as very attractive, while gayism is displayed in a much more negative light?