F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Jazz Age

15 credits

The Jazz Age, or the roaring 1920s, was a vibrant and contradictory phase in US history (not entirely different from our own times), and nobody understood it, lived it, celebrated it, and criticized it better than F. Scott Fitzgerald. In “Echoes of the Jazz Age”, he wrote that it “was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire” and still, as the title of that essay reveals, he seemed to approximate it with sadness and nostalgia already while experiencing it. The nostalgic inclination is evident in the melancholic ending of his masterpiece The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The ability of both living the excess of the Jazz Age (he and his wife Zelda was the couple of the 20s) and simultaneously distancing himself from it is what Malcolm Cowley entitled “double vision” (both internal and external narration) and that quality became a unique stylistic feature in his prose.

This course gives students an insight in the cultural, social and political dimensions of the Jazz Age and how it is rendered through Fitzgerald’s highly stylized prose in his novels and short stories as well as in his essays, letters and other writings. We study and analyze Fitzgerald’s texts with the help of both contemporary and modern critics, looking into issues such as Fitzgerald’s literary style, nostalgia and literary nostalgic style, postwar flappers, youth culture, gender in the Jazz Age, popular culture, fashion, ethnic stereotyping, Fitzgerald as a modernist, just to mention a few. We will also study the filmizations of Fitzgerald’s texts from a transmedial perspective.

The course is being taught by Professor Niklas Salmose, Fitzgerald scholar and executive member of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, and author of several articles and book chapters on Fitzgerald, nostalgia and literary style. His is currently editing Fitzgerald: A Composite Biography (University of Minnesota Press) and is also editing the new Oxford Classics edition of The Last Tycoon. In 2019 he was the third annual McDermott speaker at the University Faculty Club in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the translator of All the Sad Young Men into Swedish (Alla sorgsna unga män, 2014). The course invites the participation of several other seminal Fitzgerald researchers during lectures, seminars and on-line events.

Interview with former students

Guest Lecturer

Guest Lecturer 2016 was Dr. Helen Turner (University of Essex) who lectured on "Gatsby' s Shifting Personal Identity.". Confirmed guest lecturer for the autumn 2017 term is James L. W. West III - Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English at Penn State University. He is the author of The Perfect Hour: The Romance of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ginevra King (2005), and the general editor of the Cambridge Fitzgerald Edition Series.

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