“Pink is gay, bro,” or Why are Tom Buchanan and Lois Tyson in the same interpretive community?

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, but I just can’t get it off my mind. When I read the section in Tyson on queer theory, I was struck by a dichotomy in the kinds of evidence Tyson considers as part of a queer reading, both in her general discussion and as applied to The Great Gatsby. One kind of evidence seemed to deal with the experience of queer or gay sexuality: the prominence of same-sex relationships, explorations of the internalized homophobia that gay persons may develop as a consequence of homophobic or heterosexist culture, or the general presence of “transgressive” sexuality. When Tyson then searched for this kind of evidence in Gatsby, I found myself persuaded. Nick does have a romantic admiration for Jay Gatsby, and now that I think about it, when he speaks of his liaisons with women, he does seem like he’s hiding something.

The other kind of evidence Tyson mentions are “gay and lesbian ‘signs'”, and when I read these, I found myself confused and a little disturbed. The section on queer criticism makes it clear that sexuality cannot be defined by binaries such as male/female and gay straight, or limited by a heterocentrist definition of norms. Yet Tyson, and apparently other queer critics, depend on “characteristics that heterosexist culture stereotypically associate with gay men or lesbians” to herd characters into categories. These characteristics include “‘feminine’ male characters and ‘masculine’ female characters” (340). For example, Tyson mentions “Gatsby’s fastidious grooming and flamboyant clothing” such as his his pink suit, a color associated with femininity, as signs of his gay sexuality. She even cites the words of Tom Buchanan, the universal bigot: “‘An Oxford man?… Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit'” (345).

Isn’t saying “My evaluation of this man’s sexuality has exactly the same support and conclusion as this homophobe’s” a strange way to back up your argument? Is it damaging to define queer sexuality in literature by these stereotypes, even when no stigma is intended?

Edit: Shout out to Professor Scanlon for pointing out I meant  this guy…

“The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be — will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”

and not this guy.

“Gurl, treat yoself.”

Some Gatsby Afterthoughts

Special thank yous to Adrienne for planning (and silverware), to Rachel for the best potluck contribution, to Ashton for bringing the DVD, and to Tedward for valiantly taking home all leftover food so no one else had to carry it.

Confession: I did not expect to like the DiCaprio/Mulligan version at all.  But I did.  A lot.  It’s  gorgeous, of course.  And both Gatsby and Daisy were significantly more human in this version–reinforced even in simple ways like the fact that Nick repeatedly called Gatsby “Jay,” which is not true of the novel or Redford/Farrow movie.  As a result, Leo-Gatsby seemed more vulnerable, his carefully constructed world on a much shakier foundation.  I had loved Redford-Gatsby, but he is a cardboard man, and Leo-Gatsby showed the work it took to be Gatsby.  And Mulligan-Daisy was both much more likeable and more awful, since her guilt for Myrtle’s death is more profound if she isn’t simply a twit.

Still struggling with how I feel about the Nick-in-a-sanitorium invention.  And with the combination of explicit information about the 20s for an ignorant American viewing public being carefully woven into the film, only to be juxtaposed with radically anachronistic elements (not the music– I liked that much more than I anticipated).

Both Toms stink.  Bruce Dern-Tom is not nearly enough of a “brute,” to use Daisy’s word.  And Joel Edgerton-Tom is not believable as old money– would Tom Buchanan ever wear dirty polo clothes to a dinner with guests?  No way.  Very interesting difference in George Wilsons, one of whom is so beaten down and lost and the other of whom is a man ready to kill.

It has already been well established that I can find a phallic symbol anywhere.  But please, people: Nick and Gatsby on the porch with a huge white column between them (Redford version)??  The sharing of one cigarette??  Etc. etc.  Don’t even get me started psychoanalyzing Gatsby’s wombish swimming pools, in which he meets his death.

Lastly (maybe): why did Leo-Gatsby say “old sport” to rhyme with “Colbert Report”?  That was awkward.

Choose Dates/Topics for Applied Theory Posts!

This is another Doodle poll; for each theory listed, up to three students may sign up.  The link for the 9:30 section is here, and the link for the 11:00 section is here.

The basic gist of this assignment is as follows:  Each student will be assigned to one specific theoretical movement early in the semester and a schedule will be posted on the blog.  On the day we read about that theory, you will post to the blog an analysis of a film, song, or children’s book that is clearly informed by the theoretical questions and vocabulary for that critical group.  500-750 words.

Canvas now has an assessment rubric for this assignment, and there is a word document with the assessment criteria on the Rubrics page under Assignments above.

Psychoanalytic Theory and Marxist Theory, both in Week 3, are available if you want to do this assignment early!

Glozing “Gay” Rhicterature

In response to the topic of glozing over, dissimilarly to Richter’s concept of it, I want to talk about another instant where glozing over seems apparent within the text. In “The Great Gatsby”, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses displaced phrases. These specific phrases, “I was immediately struck by the number of young English men dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry, and all talking in low, earnest voices to solid and prosperous Americans.” (42) and “I said to myself: ’There’s the kind of man you’d like to take home and introduce to your mother and sister.’” (72), both occur in places where their purpose is confusing. To try and understand the meaning of such statements would be, naturally, rereading, reading previous information or reading beyond, but that will only further disorient the reader because the statements, “I was sure that they were selling something: bonds or insurance or automobiles.” (42) and “He paused. ‘I see you’re looking at my cuff buttons.’” (72), only counteract or diffuse the situation. I would otherwise scan past these sentences and assume nothing was at play, if they were not so consistently working on grabbing my attention. Is Nick homosexual? Is he not so strict in his sexual preference? Why then would there be such consistency, in purposefully aligning the sentences, in this manner, to defy the speculation of Nick’s interest in men? It may be a way of ensuring that Nick is represented as heterosexual, but the opposite analysis occurs, such statements are tempting to analyze, they leave the reader suspicious; but in any case F. Scott Fitzgerald has made, frayed and juxtaposed commentary that leaves us reading the text as concerning. This is where glozing over may jeopardize the intent of the literature. Is Nick being sexually fluid, gay, or straight important? It may not be to the whole, but understanding the complex of the characters is, especially when the narrator is describing the scene, because then they can become unreliable narrators. I have observed many times in which Nick accuses Gatsby of being dishonest, but Nick has been withholding information as well. We are left in the shadows when Daisy and Tom mention they heard rumors that Nick was married. Richter’s idea of glozing over topics of gender, sexuality, and studies, in all, leaves the text in whole—bodiless or as a carapace with no internal meat, only shell. The little intricacies of literature make it beautiful like the descriptions of great literature in the genre Canon. Without these special features a book, text, paper with scribbles, is featureless no matter how well the technical tools are used or how the form is made. This idea of glozing over removes the unique details and multi-analytic approaches to studying literature and observing the multifaceted angles literature can sometimes hide from first glance.