A study of the philosophical, intellectual, and political influences on the artistic creations of Fitzgerald and key early American modernist writers
F. Scott Fitzgerald and the American Scene continues Ronald Berman’s lifelong study of the philosophical, intellectual, and political influences on the artistic creations of key early American modernist writers. Each chapter in this volume elaborates on a crucial aspect of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s depiction of American society, specifically through the lens of the social sciences that most influenced his writing and thinking.
Berman addresses, among other subjects, Fitzgerald’s use of philosophy, cultural analyses, and sociology—all enriched by the insights of his own experience living an American life. He was especially interested in how life had changed from 1910 to 1920. Many Americans were unable to navigate between the 1920s and their own memories of a very different world before the Great War; especially Daisy Buchanan who evolves from girlhood (as typified in sentimental novels of the time) to wifehood (as actually experienced in the new decade). There is a profound similarity between what happens to Fitzgerald’s characters and what happened to the nation.
Berman revisits classics like The Great Gatsby but also looks carefully at Fitzgerald’s shorter fictions, analyzing a stimulating spectrum of scholars from more contemporary critics like Thomas Piketty to George Santayana, John Maynard Keynes, John Dewey, and Walter Lippmann. This fascinating addition to F. Scott Fitzgerald scholarship, although broad in its content, is accessible to a wide audience. Scholars and students of Fitzgerald and twentieth-century American literature, as well as dedicated Fitzgerald readers, will enjoy Berman’s take on a long-debated and celebrated author.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby occupies a preeminent place in American letters. Scholars have argued that Jay Gatsby is, in fact, the embodiment of American cultural and social aspiration. Though The Great Gatsby has been studied in detail since its publication, both readers and scholars have continued to speculate about Fitzgerald’s sources of inspiration.
The essays in F. Scott Fitzgerald at Work examine fresh facts that illuminate the experiences and source materials upon which Fitzgerald based this quintessentially American masterpiece. They confirm author Horst Kruse’s view that Fitzgerald’s flights of fancy, even at their most spectacular, are firmly grounded in biographical experience as well as in the social, literary, and philosophical circumstances of his era.
In the first essay, Kruse reconstructs the life story of the individual who allegedly inspired the character of Jay Gatsby: Max von Gerlach. Kruse recounts his journeys to various archives and libraries in the United States as well as in Germany to unearth new facts about the genesis of the Gatsby characters. In another journey, readers travel with Kruse to Long Island to explore its physical and moral geography in relation to Fitzgerald, specifically the role of certain elite Long Island families in the advancement of the “science of eugenics” movement. The final two essays take Kruse across the globe to various destinations to consider the broader place of The Great Gatsby in American and international intellectual history.
Replete with fascinating discoveries and insights, F. Scott Fitzgerald at Work both corrects previous assumptions about The Great Gatsby and deepens our appreciation and understanding of Fitzgerald‘s imagination.
This thought-provoking collection explores significant new facets of an American author of lasting international stature.
As the author of some of the most compelling short stories ever written, two of the central novels in American literature, and some of the most beautiful prose ever penned, F. Scott Fitzgerald is read and studied all over the world. Sixty-two years after his death, his works—protean, provocative, multilayered, and rich—continue to elicit spirited responses. This collection grew out of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Conference that convened in Princeton at the centennial of this author's birth. Bringing together dozens of the world's leading scholars and commentators, the conference and the book celebrate the ever-growing legacy of Fitzgerald's art.
The subjects of these 19 essays reflect the contributors' wish to shine new light on less-frequently discussed aspects of Fitzgerald's work. Topics include Fitzgerald's Princeton influences and his expression of Catholic romanticism; his treatments of youth culture, the devil, and waste; parallels in the work of Mencken, Cather, and Murakami; and the ways gender, pastoral mode, humor, and the Civil War are variously presented in his work. One illustrated summary examines Fitzgerald's effect on popular culture through his appearance in the comics. Two broad overviews—one on Fitzgerald's career and another on the final developments in the author's style—round out the collection.
The international scope of the contributors to this volume reflects Fitzgerald's worldwide reputation and appeal. With extensive treatments of This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Last Tycoon, and the Pat Hobby stories, this collection makes an unusual and significant contribution to the field of Fitzgerald studies.
A noted scholar offers fresh ways of looking at two legendary American authors.
Both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway came into their own in the 1920s and did some of their best writing during that decade. In a series of interrelated essays, Ronald Berman considers an array of novels and short stories by both authors within the context of the decade's popular culture, philosophy, and intellectual history. As Berman shows, the thought of Fitzgerald and Hemingway went considerably past the limits of such labels as the Jazz Age or the Lost Generation.
Both Fitzgerald and Hemingway were avid readers, alive to the intellectual currents of their day, especially the contradictions and clashes of ideas and ideologies. Both writers, for example, were very much concerned with the problem of untenable belief—and also with the need to believe. In this light, Berman offers fresh readings of such works as Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," and "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" and Hemingway's "The Killers," A Farewell to Arms, and The Sun Also Rises. Berman invokes the thinking of a wide range of writers in his considerations of these texts, including William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Walter Lippman, and Edmund Wilson.
Berman's essays are driven and connected by a focused line of inquiry into Fitzgerald's and Hemingway's concerns with dogma both religious and secular, with new and old ideas of selfhood,and, particularly in the case of Hemingway, with the way we understand, explain, and transmit experience.
Fitzgerald’s Mentors is a fresh and compelling study of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s intellectual friendship with Edmund Wilson, H. L. Mencken, and Gerald Murphy.
Fitzgerald was shaped through his engagements with key literary and artistic figures in the 1920s. This book is about their influence— and also about the ways that Fitzgerald defended his own ideas about writing. Influence was always secondary to independence.
Fitzgerald’s education began at Princeton with Edmund Wilson. There Wilson imparted to Fitzgerald many ideas about education and literary values, among them respect for the classics and an acute awareness of literary tradition.
In New York H. L. Mencken impressed upon Fitzgerald his belief in the stifling effect of public morality on writers. Furthermore, Mencken’s The American Language changed Fitzgerald’s thinking about the power of everyday language.
After moving to France in 1924, Fitzgerald’s intellectual life took a very different turn. Gerald Murphy exposed him to the visual arts— including the work of Fernand Leger, Pablo Picasso, and Man Ray—and to people deeply interested in the perception of art in daily life. Equally important, Fitzgerald had many discussions about artistic values with both Gerald and Sara Murphy.
In this study, Ronald Berman examines the work of the critic/novelist Edmund Wilson and the art of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway as they wrestled with the problems of language, experience, perception and reality in the "age of jazz." By focusing specifically on aesthetics—the ways these writers translated everyday reality into language—Berman challenges and redefines many routinely accepted ideas concerning the legacy of these authors.
Fitzgerald is generally thought of as a romantic, but Berman shows that we need to expand the idea of Romanticism to include its philosophy. Hemingway, widely viewed as a stylist who captured experience by simplifying language, is revealed as consciously demonstrating reality's resistance to language. Between these two renowned writers stands Wilson, who is critically influenced by Alfred North Whitehead, as well as Dewey, James, Santayana, and Freud.
By patiently mapping the correctness of these philosophers, historians, literary critics and writers, Berman aims to open a gateway into the era. This work should be of interest to scholars of American literature, philosophy and aesthetics; to academic libraries; to students of intellectual history; and to general readers interested in Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Wilson.
"A stunning piece of
work. If Fitzgerald could have wished for one reader of The Great Gatsby,
it would have been Ronald Berman. Berman's criticism creates an ideal
companion piece to the novel--as brilliantly illuminating about America
as it is about fiction, and composed with as much thought and style."
-- Roger Rosenblatt
"An impressive study
that brilliantly highlights the oneness of Fitzgerald's art with the overall
context of modernism." -- Milton R. Stern, author of The Golden Moment: The Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Citing films, dates,
places, schedules, Broadway newsstands, and the spoils of manufacture,
the author, never lapsing into critical jargon, locates the characters
in 'the moving present.' Gatsby, the first of the great novels
to emerge from B movies, uses the language of commodities, advertisements,
photography, cinematography, and Horatio Alger to present models of identity
for characters absorbed in and by what is communicated. . . . Berman concludes
that Gatsby 'reassembled' rather than 'invented' himself."
-- A. Hirsh, Choice
Breaks new critical ground by exploring philosophical and aesthetic issues germane to the writings of three major modern literary figures.
In the 1920s and ‘30s, understandings of time, place, and civilization were subjected to a barrage of new conceptions. Ronald Berman probes the work of three writers who wrestled with one or more of these issues in ways of lasting significance.
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Orwell all grappled with fluid notions of time: Hemingway’s absolute present, Fitzgerald’s obsession with what might be and what might have been, and Orwell’s concerns with progress. For these authors, progress is also tied to competing senses of place--for Fitzgerald, the North versus the South; for Hemingway, America versus Europe. At stake for each is an understanding of what constitutes true civilization in a post-war world. Berman discusses Hemingway’s deployment of language in tackling the problems of thinking and knowing. Berman follows this notion further in examining the indisputable impact upon Hemingway’s prose of Paul Cézanne’s painting and the nature of perception.
Finally, Berman considers the influence on Orwell of Aristotle and Freud’s ideas of civilization, translated by Orwell into the fabric of 1984 and other writings.
Ronald Berman is Professor of English at the University of California at San Diego and past chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is author of six books, including “The Great Gatsby” and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas and Fitzgerald-Wilson-Hemingway: Language and Experience.
One August night in 1931, on a secluded mountain ridge overlooking Birmingham, Alabama, three young white women were brutally attacked. The sole survivor, Nell Williams, age eighteen, said a black man had held the women captive for four hours before shooting them and disappearing into the woods. That same night, a reign of terror was unleashed on Birmingham's black community: black businesses were set ablaze, posses of armed white men roamed the streets, and dozens of black men were arrested in the largest manhunt in Jefferson County history. Weeks later, Nell identified Willie Peterson as the attacker who killed her sister Augusta and their friend Jennie Wood. With the exception of being black, Peterson bore little resemblance to the description Nell gave the police. An all-white jury convicted Peterson of murder and sentenced him to death.
In Murder on Shades Mountain Melanie S. Morrison tells the gripping and tragic story of the attack and its aftermath—events that shook Birmingham to its core. Having first heard the story from her father—who dated Nell's youngest sister when he was a teenager—Morrison scoured the historical archives and documented the black-led campaigns that sought to overturn Peterson's unjust conviction, spearheaded by the NAACP and the Communist Party. The travesty of justice suffered by Peterson reveals how the judicial system could function as a lynch mob in the Jim Crow South. Murder on Shades Mountain also sheds new light on the struggle for justice in Depression-era Birmingham. This riveting narrative is a testament to the courageous predecessors of present-day movements that demand an end to racial profiling, police brutality, and the criminalization of black men.
Pigeonholed as a Jazz Age epicurean and an emblem of the Lost Generation, Fitzgerald was at heart a moralist struck by the nation’s shifting mood and manners after WWI. Placing him among Progressives such as Charles Beard, Randolph Bourne, and Thorstein Veblen, David Brown reveals Fitzgerald as a writer with an encompassing historical imagination.
In this fascinating study, Chris Messenger posits F. Scott Fitzgerald as a great master of sentiment in modern American fiction. Sentimental forms both attracted and repelled Fitzgerald while defining his deepest impulses as a prose writer. Messenger demonstrates that the sentimental identities, refractions, and influences Fitzgerald explores in Tender Is the Night define key components in his affective life, which evolved into a powerful aesthetic that informed his vocation as a modernist writer.
In “Tender Is the Night” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Sentimental Identities, Messenger traces the roots of Fitzgerald’s writing career to the deaths of his two infant sisters a few months before his own birth. It was their loss, Fitzgerald wrote, that made him a writer. Messenger highlights how the loss of Fitzgerald’s siblings powerfully molded his relation to maternal nurturing and sympathy in Tender Is the Night as well as how it shaped the homosocial intimations of its care-giving protagonist, psychiatrist Dick Diver. A concomitant grief and mourning was fueled by Fitzgerald’s intimate and intense creative rivalry with his often-institutionalized wife, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.
While sentiment is a discredited strain in high modernism, Fitzgerald nevertheless embraced it in Tender Is the Night to fashion this most poignant and beautiful successor to The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s aesthetic and emotional preoccupations came most vividly to life in this major novel. Messenger describes how Fitzgerald, creating his character Nicole Warren Diver as a victim of paternal incest, finally found the sentimental key to finishing his novel and uniting his vision of the two narratives of “saving” the two sisters and reimagining the agony of his wife and their marriage.
Fitzgerald’s productive quarrel with and through sentiment defines his career, and Messenger convincingly argues that Tender Is the Night should be placed alongside TheGreat Gatsby as a classic exemplar of the modern novel.
In Translating Modernism Ronald Berman continues his career-long study of the ways that intellectual and philosophical ideas informed and transformed the work of America’s major modernist writers.
Here Berman shows how Fitzgerald and Hemingway wrestled with very specific intellectual, artistic, and psychological influences, influences particular to each writer, particular to the time in which they wrote, and which left distinctive marks on their entire oeuvres. Specifically, Berman addresses the idea of "translating" or "translation"—for Fitzgerald the translation of ideas from Freud, Dewey, and James, among others; and for Hemingway the translation of visual modernism and composition, via Cézanne.
Though each writer had distinct interests and different intellectual problems to wrestle with, as Berman demonstrates, both had to wrestle with transmuting some outside influence and making it their own.