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.

Meagan’s Bridge to the Blog (AKA Some People Can Find a Phallic Symbol Anywhere)

Today (9/10) the topic of focus was psychoanalytic criticism, which is used to analyze symbols, the reader’s interpretation of a text, and how we understand character and theme. Essential concepts include repression, displacement, denial, phallic and yonic symbols, Eros and Thanatos, and the id, ego, and superego. We were reminded that Freudian theory involves two stages of development, which are the pre-Oedipal phase and the Oedipal phase. Meanwhile, Lacan theory asserts that there are three stages of development: the imaginary, mirror, and symbolic stage. The inaccessibility of the Real was described as Lacan’s belief that, no matter how hard we try to find the Real, we will never reach it. Lastly, we acknowledged that Freud has a debatably unhealthy obsession with phalluses, while Lacan interprets Penis Envy to mean Power Envy.

In addition, we discussed how we would psychoanalytically analyze the Cat in the Hat. The fish undoubtedly represents the superego, and the cat the id. Regrettably, we didn’t cover the role of Thing 1 and Thing 2. Do you think that they are an extension of the Cat as a representation of the Id, that they are a statement of the chaos that can occur via the Id, that they represent repressed memories (they are, after all, released from a box and are quite destructive), or that they represent something else?

I wish we had talked a bit more about Lacan’s difficult concept of the Real. The best way that I can think to describe it is through Lowry’s The Giver. For anyone who is unfamiliar, the novel is based on the idea that there exists a world beyond what we are capable of experiencing, due to the limits of society. The government in the novel rendered it’s citizens incapable of seeing color, experiencing weather, and even exercising free will. The main character learns to reject society and mistrust his senses, and in doing so he discovers a world rich in color and emotion. Do you think that The Giver adequately describes Lacan’s Real and how to achieve it? Does anyone have an alternate way to explain the Real? Do you think that the concept of the Real is viable, or that it is “made up?” How else might you analyze The Giver using psychoanalytic criticism?

Also, regarding the popular notion that psychoanalytic theories are “based on nothing” or “perverted,” do you think the widely accepted concepts presented in Freud’s theories (such as fear of intimacy and low self-esteem) redeem him? Do you think Tyson is true when she says on page 37 that, “Freud named and explained principles of human behavior that were present long before he found them and that would be present even if he didn’t describe them?”