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?

Converting me too Lois Tyson-ism, one Queer Theory Reading at a Time

After reading Lois Tyson’s critical readings of The Great Gatsby through other lenses such as Feminism, Psychoanalysis or Marxist, I must admit, I began to resent her.  It always seemed like she was making the text fit the lens, as opposed to using the lens to view the text, and as if she knew the outcome she wanted, far before she ever cracked the text.  While these readings all left bad tastes in my mouth, I was pleasantly surprised by the queer theory analysis.  She seemed more at ease about proving a point, making the possibility of a homoerotic subtext seem plausible, thought out and intelligent.
            What caught me most off guard was Tyson admitting that The Great Gatsby could have such a homoerotic subtext because it’s narrator, (Nick Carraway) is believed to be a closeted gay.  This is quite different than previous readings in which she tries to make everyone fit into the lens, but here instead, she focuses on those who it clearly applies to, (Nick and Jordan) and how it could play into the lives of the heterosexuals in the plot (Gatsby, Daisy.)  The most fascinating aspect of this one part was her write up on Fitzgerald, famed author of the text.  It is no secret that when writing, pieces are often autobiographical, so it was no surprise to think of Nick as a representation of the author.  Tyson proofs her point with clips of text such as one from a letter (Fitzgerald to a friend) stating, “[I want to] go with a young man affectueux (affectionate) for a paid amorous weekend on the coast,” or, “He dressed as a woman and attended a fraternity dance,” and was, “intensely curious about gay life.”  There is no avoiding the fact, the main character of the story most often resembles the author in some form, and the ties that are shown here, would reaffirm the possibility of a homosexual Nick Carraway.   
            Moving on in our quest to out Nick’s sexuality, we see the bedroom scene with McKee.  I was disappointed in myself for not noticing this when I originally read The Great Gatsby, because it seemed so obvious.  The point here is, we do no often read text from a queer theory standpoint.  It simply isn’t a “natural” lens that we have been taught to read with.  But back to proofing Nick’s sexuality- as Tyson says, “McKee’s feminine appearance… a homoerotic attraction between the two mean…Nick’s fastidious attention to McKee’s grooming… McKee’s sitting in bed attired only in his underwear.”  Woah… isn’t that a dead giveaway!  One could argue that someone could simply lounge around in his underwear and it wouldn’t be sexual, but alas, if anything, this is homo social.  In this particular case though, we know both were highly inebriated, had been “checking” each other out, and both ended up in a bedroom.  It all just seems, set up not him a humorous way, but to be reality and to out Nick to the astute readers among us. 
            I was most impressed though by Tyson’s handling of the relationship between Jordan Baker and Nick.  The relationship is always portrayed as struggling in The Great Gatsby, and all of a sudden, it seemed to make sense why this was.  For instance when Nick first met Jordan, he said, “ I enjoyed look at her… [she was] like a young boy a military school.”  Nick enjoys the sight of young males at military school, and finds it attractive?  In fact, it would seem he does enjoy it- but the point here is, he is looking at the characteristics of Jordan that are common of a man, to make his lust for men, “compatible” with living in a patriarchal-heterosexual society.  With a plethora of times that Nick finds the masculine qualities of Jordan, which he finds her most attractive, we can rest assured that he enjoys looking at her, as if she is a man. 
            Out of all the readings, I was thoroughly impressed by this one.  I was blown away by Tyson being open minded to some characters not being homosexual, pulling in historical information (such as about WWI) and including information on Fitzgerald’s life which shed light on the plot.  All in all, if every analysis by Tyson was as informative, clear and factual, myself and many others would have far more positive takes on Critical Theory Today.

Do you think Jordan ever viewed the feminine characteristics of Nick, drawing her closer to him?  Do you think that Critical Theory was at all autobiographical to Fitzgerald’s situation?  Do you think that Fitzgerald intended for the homoerotic subplot, or it simply resulted from his interest in gay life?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Good Effort, but Fitzgerald Was Just Being Dramatic

Aidan Villani-Holland
Christie Beveridge
Language Arts
7 November 13
Good Effort, but Fitzgerald Was Just Being Dramatic
          In Lois Tyson's Book, Critical Theory Today she continues trying to use every possible criticism applied to The Great Gatsby, which is a valiant effort, but also clearly impossible. In chapter ten, she uses gay/lesbian/queer theory, which is probably the most far-fetched so far in the context of The Great Gatsby.
          First, Tyson tries to use people's transgressions in their various heterosexually romantic relationships to prove the existence of homosexual undertones when she writes on page 343, "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 vows. "She tries to point out that almost every heterosexual relationship in the novel involves cheating, which could possibly mean something, except that there isn't a single homosexual relationship in the entire novel to contrast against. Thus meaning that the adulterous nature of the relationships that Tyson describes are merely there to create drama and further the story.
           On page 54 of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald writes, "His short hair looked as though it were trimmed every day." and on pages 97 and 98, he writes, "Shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of Indian blue." Lois Tyson tries to use these quotes as hints that Gatsby is gay because the descriptions can be seen as stereotypically gay. However, these descriptions are clearly just showing the reader Gatsby's ridiculous wealth. When Fitzgerald mentions that his hair is overly groomed, it's simply because anyone with less money would have no possibility of getting their hair cut daily for more than a month before going broke. As for the shirts, colorful clothing has been a sign of wealth for hundreds of years, especially as we look back into the past.
          Furthermore, I can prove that Gatsby's shirts are not a representation of his homosexuality, but a symbol of his wealth. In that very same scene, Fitzgerald writes, "Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily." It is clear throughout the book that Daisy only wants to be with Gatsby if he is part of her upper class. Just as the shirts represent Gatsby's wealth to the reader, they do to Daisy as well. She wants to be with Gatsby, so when she see's this symbol, she is overwhelmed with joy and starts sobbing.
          Over all and as usual, Lois Tyson starts with an assumption that is untrue about the story to use a critical lens that does not fit it. Thus, she ends up grasping for straws on the proof, and the reading ends up lacking in real substance.

-Do you think Gatsby's flashy fashion is a sign that he's gay, or just rich?
-Even if none of the characters are gay, do you think the book is posing any stance about homosexuality?
-Assuming Nick were gay, why was he interester in Jordan Baker?

Nick Can Stay Seated (until the facts are in): Response to the lesbian/gay/queer reading of "Gatsby"

For someone who claims to see the importance of historical context, Lois Tyson sure doesn't put much time into research of the relevant details. Her reading of "The Great Gatsby" through a lesbian/gay/queer lens suffers severely from this lack of information, and as usual seemed to focus on points which actually trend to weaken her argument. I found her reading lacking mostly in the historical context she fails to put it in and the misinterpretation of relationships.

The first is what much of the rest of her reading is predicated on, so I will begin by addressing the factual inaccuracies and fallacies upon which she bases her conclusions. Her reading of the gay and lesbian "signs" in Nick, Jordan and Gatsby are all dependent on a modern view of sexuality and stereotypes. The instance in which I first noticed this was in her discussion of Gatsby; she writes that "[Gatsby's] impeccable wardrobe features various shades of lavender and pink, two colors that have been long associated with gayness ... his pink suit is mentioned at least three times" (345). To see why this is inaccurate, we should first establish how much gender stereotypes have changed. The simplest way I can think of to establish that is through this picture:
Adorable, right? If you're wondering why I used a picture of some little girl from a hundred-and-some-odd years ago, that's understandable. I used it because it's actually of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and a perfect representation of how gender expectations have changed; in this time period, this was perfectly normal for a male or female child to wear. But what about pink? To quote a 1918 editorial (it is worth noting that this article dates from right around the time "The Great Gatsby" was set):
“There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy; while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
This was not a briefly popular belief; the controversy over colors for genders continued through World War II. In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart to illustrate which rule retailers followed:
Clearly, Tyson is factually wrong about the "long" association with pink and femininity or homosexuality.

Color is not the only issue in which Tyson failed to do her homework. Her view of Jordan Baker as "a repository of lesbian signs" (349) is heavily dependent on her sportiness and apparently masculine characteristics; "She makes her living in the, then, male domain of professional golf" (346). But was this really seen as a lesbian sign? Apparently not. From the University of Michigan's page on lesbian history: "Other popular representations of the tomboy were critical, arguing that athletics damaged women’s reproductive organs and/or unleashed their heterosexual passions, preventing their future success as wives ... female athletes were interpreted as unruly heterosexuals rather than lesbians." Rather than a sign of lesbianism, female athletes were viewed as overly heterosexual, a view of her character backed up by the other primary indicator of lesbianism Tyson uses. Rather than appearing as suppressed homosexuality, her many and non-committal relationships with men appear to be in line with the contemporary view of her athleticism being a signal of promiscuity. Tyson acknowledges this, but skates around it, only briefly mentioning that 'Nick believes that Jordan is sexually promiscuous" (343).

Stripping away the conclusions drawn from falsely imposing modern views on gender on the novel clearly weakens Tyson's arguments. Based largely on these and similar misconceptions, Tyson draws even further-ranging conclusions. She uses the false warrant granted by what she sees as Nick and Jordan's "function as repositories of gay signs" (347) to conclude that their (straight; male-female) relationship as homosexual. "Nick's attachment to Jordan seems as much the product of homoerotic as heterosexual attraction because he sees her primarily as a young boy" (347). Her revisionist view of the many heterosexual relationships as actually being homosexual, besides its clear contradiction, rings hollower without the misleading 'evidence' upon which it depends. Her assertion that "Nick is denying his orientation is suggested not merely by his sexual affairs with women ... but by his self-presentation" (349). Again, having removed the factually inaccurate views she imposed on the novel, this statement must stand alone, and the idea that a man having sex with women and acting masculine are enough to conclude that he is secretly gay is patently ridiculous. There was no shortage of aspects of her reading I disagreed with, like the sexually transgressive nature of so much of the plot being indicative of homosexual undertones rather than a criticism of the corrupt Roaring Twenties; the assumption that Nick's obsession with Gatsby was homoerotic rather than merely homosocial (more evidence could possibly have convinced me); and the idea that Nick's expression of boredom with his old life after being a soldier is a concrete indication that he discovered a homosexual identity in the Army that was not accepted at home are all arguments I found weak at best.

Certainly, sexual experimentation was a part of this time period as well as "The Great Gatsby." But Lois Tyson's failure to actually understand the way that gender and sexual stereotypes and perception change (which she harps on so frequently), in addition to her bending the straight relationships presented in the book and generally misusing the actual facts of the plot all crippled a reading with vast potential. Exploring Fitzgerald's actual sexuality in more depth would also be an interesting pursuit; on that note, based on the anecdotes related at the end of the reading, do you think Fitzgerald was gay? And if so, is there a legitimate case to be made that he projected his sexuality onto Nick, his narrator?

Works Cited
Garrett, Emma, and Rachel Silveri. "Lesbian History: Cultural Issues." Lesbian History: Cultural Issues. University of Michigan, n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.
Jarrah. "The History of Pink for Girls and Blue for Boys." Gender Focus: A Canadian Feminist Blog. N.p., 23 Sept. 2010. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.
Maglaty, Jeanne. "When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?" Smithsonian Magazine. The Smithsonian, 08 Apr. 2011. Web. 06 Jan. 2013.

Lesbian, gay, and queer response

Bella Carrara
Christie Beveridge
Critical Theory
6 January, 2013

            Lois Tyson's lesbian, gay, and queer theory reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was accurate concerning Nick Carraway, but far from the truth with other characters. Her depiction of Nick Carraway's perspective of Gatsby and Jordan make perfect sense, if Nick Carraway is in fact gay. But, I do not believe that Gatsby and Jordan are homosexual in reality.
           Nick's encounter with McKee is striking proof of his homosexuality. Tyson says, "Nick's 'following' him out of the room, the lunch invitation, Nick's following McKee into his bedroom, McKee's sitting in bed attired only in his underwear..." (344) When put into prospective, these actions have a strong homoerotic subtext, that make the reader question Nick's said heterosexuality. Next, Tyson comments, "Nick's attraction to Jordan seems to have a homoerotic dimension because of his fixation on her boyish appearance." (348) Nick is constantly describing Jordan with masculine appearances such as, she has a "hard, jaunty body"(346.) Nick's attraction to Jordan shows his denial of his homosexuality through his compensation of having a relationship with a woman that reminds him of a man.  Tyson also comments about Nicks focus on "Gatsby's feminine qualities, which mirrors his focus on McKee; his intense appreciation of Gatsby's 'gorgeous' appearance and 'romantic readiness'". (347) To me, it is clear the Nick Carraway is homosexual, although he might not be aware of it himself.
           Tyson's view on Tom Buchanon also makes perfect sense to me. Tom is a strong figure, who wants to make sure people portray him in the "right" light, i.e. a rich, heterosexual, powerful man. Tyson says, "...macho overcompensation is directly related to homophobia: Tom's need to prove his own manhood leads him to attack anything he perceives as an indication of homosexuality in others." Tom often bashes Gatsby's choice of flamboyant clothing to prove that he is far manlier than Gatsby. Although, when Tyson comments on Gatsby's grooming and flamboyancy as 'gay signs', I have to disagree. It is clear that Gatsby is far from gay, as his life has been focused on impressing and capturing the love of Daisy. 
         Tyson's lesbian, gay, and queer theory reading the The Great Gatsby proved to be highly interesting and partially correct. I strongly agree that Nick Carraway has the possibility of being homosexual due to his actions throughout the novel, and his perspective of the characters he is attracted to. The part I have a hard time agreeing with, is Tyson says that since Gatsby grooms himself and his dress is flamboyant, he is subject to being homosexual as well. And because Jordan has a unisex name and sightly resembles a man, she is subject to being a lesbian. It is very possible that Gatsby is a metrosexual, and the reasoning behind his clothing and grooming is to prove his wealth and superiority. When you see a well dressed man on the street, do you assume he is gay? Or a girl with a boyish figure, is she most likely lesbian? These are strong stereotypes that are often abused and often misleading and untrue.