Contradiction Between the Tyson Readings?

When I first started reading the Tyson essays, I thought that the different readings and interpretations of The Great Gatsby would contradict one another and become rather confusing. However, I feel as though the different forms of criticism are actually helping me to understand the depth of the text much better.

Nevertheless, it is a little bit difficult to see the same quotations used to try to prove rather contrasting points in neighboring chapters (an example of this would be New Criticism’s interpretation of the “valley of ashes” on pg. 151 as a portrayal of “the narrative tension between the corrupt world of the novel and its title character,” whereas, on pg. 72, Marxist Criticism interprets it as a “powerfully chilling image of the life led by those who do not have the socioeconomic resources of the Buchanans”).

Do you think that the differing critical reading strategies contradict or add to/build on one another in relation to your understanding of The Great Gatsby?

7 thoughts on “Contradiction Between the Tyson Readings?

  1. Now that we have finished all the Tyson Readings, I think it is relevant to mention here what Professor Scanlon said at one point in our class. “Some Tyson readings of ‘The Great Gatsby’ will offer more productive insights than others.'”
    Nevertheless, I felt that the strongest arguments of Gatsby were the initial readings, mainly because they were my first exposure to the story and so it seemed more convincing/believable. However, I will say that Tyson did a good job trying to provide a rationale for each criticism. I couldn’t say I would have been as successful if I tried. But, I do feel that Tyson makes big stretches for some criticisms. Like the part about the green grass or spring meaning youth and all that section [can’t recall at the moment which one it was, may have been New cultural and historical]. But like I said, I appreciate the effort Tyson put into each section.

  2. Haha, thanks for your responses. 🙂 At the time, I had been thinking about the Valley of Ashes and how I realized that I didn’t really know what my opinion of its metaphorical purpose was anymore (due to all of the different interpretations we’ve encountered of it in the past few weeks). Maybe it’s just me, though!

  3. I think that the new theories help me think a bit more about different perspectives and different viewpoints, but none of the theories have really shaken my original reading of the book. For instance the Marxist reading was a nearly devastating critique on the popular rendition of the Great Gatsby of which I shared many similar opinions on; however, I felt that the main bulk of convincing evidence still laid behind my view of the work. Good post and question though!

  4. To me, each theory neither contradicts or builds on one another. I think that by seeing one novel argued by each theory demonstrates not only the theory, but the diverse interpretations and understandings that each piece of work can provide.
    Another example would be our class discussions. Each of us have a different interpretation of the texts. Even if the differences are minor, the discussion provides each of us with a well-rounded interpretation and understanding of the text.

  5. I’d agree that for the most part, the different readings do more to complement each other than undermine the differing theories. If you were to grab a handful of theories like Marxist, feminist, and lesbian, gay, and queer criticism, you could have a well-rounded reading of the text that explores intersectionality.

    It is perhaps worthwhile to note that the different theories seem more like tools for understanding texts than a strict way of looking at the world, or at literature. Each time you choose the tool that produces the richest result, instead of insisting there’s only one true way; otherwise you’d always be missing some bright spot.

  6. I see what you mean. I agree, it is simply about understanding the different theories and less about deciding which one is the right one. I suppose it’s just hard to look at it from an objective perspective without really just wanting to know what “The Great Gatsby” is all about!

  7. I do agree that it is confusing but I think that Tyson does use the same story and quotes to show how a text can be interpreted multiple different ways. It is all up to the reader to analyze it in their own perspective. I think that people who favor one theory over another would analyze it in their favor while somebody else might see it in a different way. The theories to me are just ways to understand and analyze a book, song, etc.

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