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.

Ya Boi Ian’s Bridge to the Blog, 9-26-13

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Upon walking into class and hearing Dr. Scanlon mutter, “Shittles!” as she verbally wrestled with the dysfunctional projector of Combs 111, I knew that it was going to be a good day.

The cornerstone activity of the day was to develop a thesis statement, in small groups, for our chosen school of critical analysis.  The rough thesis statements and supporting evidences were then presented in front of the class.  The groups were:

  1. Reader-Response
  2. Psychoanalytic 1
  3. Psychoanalytic 2
  4. Post-Colonial
  5. Marxist

Since most of the talking was done during presentation today, I would like to make this post an opportunity to really engage in what was presented.  First, I will give a brief overview of the outlined theses.  Then, I will offer some further discussion questions to you guys and open the floodgates to intelligent discussion.

The Reader-Response group interpreted Adventures as a coming of age tale, for both Alice and the reader, and highlighted the importance of age to how the novel is understood (i.e., younger = innocent, older = dark/symbolic).  The Psychoanalytic groups focused on Alice’s internalized battle between the superego and the id; however, the first group used the idea of finding identity as a unifying thesis (including oral fixation as identity-finding), and the second group focused on Alice’s dissonance as a reaction to the strict social guidelines of her life.  The Marxist group saw Alice’s journey as an interaction of ideologies and hierarchies, with an emphasis on the power structure (i.e, royalty in Adventures as aristocrats) and Alice’s frequently changing power (by size).  Finally, the Post-Colonial group saw the story as an allegory for the rise and fall of the British Empire.  The “exotic” animal representations of characters was symbolic of colonization, and Alice was seen as a white authority who wanted her rules to be followed but struggled with that due to the language barrier (pervasive madness of characters as language barrier).

Now that we have a little foundation….

Here’s another chance to examine the topics.  Now that you can respond, what is interesting to you all?  Are you noticing things you didn’t notice in class?  At second glance, I found the Post-Colonial group’s interpretation very compelling; it went in great depth and made connections I did not expect to be made.  In what ways can we, as a group, take this one farther–for example, this interpretation casts Alice as the “oppressor,” since she can be seen as the “white authority” that attempts to demand control.  How is Alice oppressive to her animal counterparts?  In many ways, Alice’s character is very wandering and uncertain until the end, when she grows in size and takes control.  Could that be a comparison to how the colonizing empires had a shallow understanding of territories they took control of, and in the end they used their brute force to retain power?  If all of this is true, then what do we make of the ending–what’s the significance of “waking up,” and Alice’s sister’s reflections?

I chose to look further at the Post-Colonial thesis, but there’s plenty of potential in each of the theories presented today.  I’ll leave you all with this: are there any ways in which we could connect some of the ideas we talked about in class?  Something that I love to do is make connections across borders, and whether or not it’s academically relevant, I think it’s mentally engaging and interesting to take a combined look at how, for example, Marxist ideologies of social hierarchies and power politics play into the repressed desires to go against the social grain discussed in the Psychoanalytic readings.

Let’s go down this rabbit hole that is the “Bridge to the Blog” together, and leave behind the sensible world of the classroom–we now enter the strange Wonderland that is UMW Blogs, where madness pervades and anything is possible.