- Fitzgerald and Hemingway
The work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway continues to receive a significant amount of critical attention. As always, I must emphasize the necessity for selectivity in this chapter.
This year's scholarship on Fitzgerald expands familiar themes, but there are notable forays into new lines of inquiry. Although no single approach dominates the field, many critics address the issue of influence this year. In particular, scholars gravitate toward Fitzgerald's indebtedness to British writers and thinkers (probably the result of the 2007 Fitzgerald Society meeting in London). Scholars continue to demonstrate and defend Fitzgerald's intellectual seriousness through studies that explore his interest in socioeconomic theories and his engagement with and understanding of modernist artistic techniques, especially with regard to the visual arts. There is also a notable diversification in multimedia approaches as critics address Fitzgerald's work not just in relation to film (as has been the case for some time) but also in relation to musicals and video games. As in years past, The Great Gatsby receives the most critical attention with Tender is the Night and the short stories coming in a distant second. Some of the most innovative work of the year, however, is the result of scholars grappling with less frequently studied texts, such as This Side of Paradise and The Love of the Last Tycoon. [End Page 211]
a. Books and Essay Collections
Michael Nowlin's F. Scott Fitzgerald's Racial Angles and the Business of Literary Greatness (Palgrave) takes a familiar theme in Fitzgerald scholarship—the tension between his desire to be a financially successful popular writer and his ambition to be a serious literary artist—and views it through the lens of race. Combining scholarship on the high/low distinction in modernism, minstrelsy, and theories of distinction (most notably from Pierre Bourdieu) with biography and close readings of manuscripts and letters (cataloging Fitzgerald's personal anxieties about his Irish background), Nowlin demonstrates that for a variety of cultural and personal reasons Fitzgerald found race an effective way of making distinctions in his life and his work by delineating between what was popular (black) and what was artistically superior (white). Nowlin's work is a notable contribution to the study of race in Fitzgerald's work, which up to this point has been dominated by discussions of passing.
In contrast, Jarom MacDonald's Sports, Narrative, and Nation in the Fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Routledge) takes an unfamiliar topic in Fitzgerald scholarship—sports—and puts it into a familiar context of social status and class. In this original study MacDonald explores Fitzgerald's interest in American football and baseball and how they provided him with yet another way of scrutinizing the problems of hierarchy and stratification in American society. MacDonald combines cultural analysis, social theories, and narratology with close readings of two novels and several short stories in order to demonstrate how Fitzgerald understood the role that sports—with their democratizing, merit-based narratives—play in American life. Specifically he suggests that sports narratives encourage people to believe in egalitarianism while reinscribing social distinction through the concept of status (as opposed to pure economic-based distinction).
A Distant Drummer: Foreign Perspectives on F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. Jamal Assadi et al. (Peter Lang), is a collection of essays organized around two goals: first, to offer a perspective on Fitzgerald's work and critical reputation outside of America; and second, to address that work less on biographical terms (which frequently exert a strong influence on American scholarship) and more on the terms of the author's artistry and artistic accomplishment. The essays in the collection are nearly equally divided in their attention between The Great Gatsby (four articles) and Tender is the Night (five articles), with one article that addresses Fitzgerald's British reputation in general. Specific contributions to this [End Page 212] collection are addressed below, but as a whole the collection is uneven and does not consistently deliver on its stated organizational principles.
b. Articles and Book Chapters
Many scholars address the issue of Fitzgerald's influences, and often these explorations also serve to bolster claims regarding the author's intellectual seriousness and...