American Icon

October 2011
172 pages
9x6 in
Literary Criticism in Perspective
ISBN: 9781571133717
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House

American Icon

Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in Critical and Cultural Context

Robert Beuka

How and why Fitzgerald's novel, initially called a failure, has come to be considered a masterwork of American literature and part of the fabric of the culture.
Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is widely seen as the quintessential "great American novel," and the extensive body of criticism on the work bears out its significance in American letters. American Icon traces its reception and its canonical status in American literature, popular culture, and educational experience. It begins by outlining the novel's critical reception from its publication in 1925, to very mixed reviews, through Fitzgerald's death, when it had been virtually forgotten. Next, it examines the posthumous revival of Fitzgerald studies in the 1940s and its intensification by the New Critics in the 1950s, focusing on how and why the novel began to be considered a masterpiece of American literature. It then traces the growth of the "industry" of Gatsby criticism in the ensuing decades, stressing how critics of recent decades have opened up study of the economic, sexual, racial, and historical aspects of the text. The final section discusses the larger-than-life status Gatsby has attained in American education and popular culture, suggesting that it has not only risen from the critical ash heaps into which it was initially discarded, but also that it has become part of the fabric of American culture in a way that few other works have.

Robert Beuka is Professor of English at Bronx Community College, City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

A Book of the Season Only: Early Reactions to The Great Gatsby
A Green Light: The "Fitzgerald Revival" and the Making of a Masterpiece, 1940-59
The Gatsby Industry: Tracing Patterns and Pushing Boundaries in the Criticism of the Sixties and Seventies
Gatsby, in Theory (and Out): New Paradigms in the Eighties and Nineties
Twenty-First-Century G: The Great Gatsby as Cultural Icon
Works Cited


[E]xcellent . . . . Fitzgerald scholars and canny students will be grateful for this book for a long time to come, not just for the way it organizes its diverse materials and makes sense of the various trends in Gatsby criticism, but mainly for its clear analyses of the best and sometimes not very good examples of that criticism, and for illustrating how The Great Gatsby became great. THE F. SCOTT FITZGERALD REVIEW

[T]his slim and elegant volume . . . manage[s] to encompass not only the formal scholarship on Gatsby but also a complete and thorough survey of the impact of the novel on the world of popular culture. . . . [I]t serve[s] both those beginning a study of the novel . . . and those continuing that investigation. . . . This is an essential book for anyone who has any level of interest in American literature and culture, and a valuable contribution to the field of Fitzgerald scholarship. EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES

Author Bio

Robert Beuka is associate professor of English at Bronx Community College, City College of New York.

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