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.