Category: literature

Blog Archives

F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is seen by critics and the general public as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quintessential novel, and is the novel he is most famous for.  It tells the story of a rich man named Jay Gatsby and his quest to regain a past love. As its most recent movie adaptation is currently playing in theaters, Special Collections invites you to take a look back on the novel and the man that created it.

The frontispiece of an edition of The Great Gatsby featuring the man Gatsby himself.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota and named after his second cousin three times removed, the Francis Scott Key of national anthem fame. While on academic probation at Princeton, Fitzgerald enlisted in the army in 1917.  In June 1918, he was assigned to a camp near Montgomery, Alabama, where he met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre.  In late 1919, after being discharged from the army and quitting his job in advertising, Fitzgerald began his career of writing short stories for magazines and other publications, with The Saturday Evening Post becoming his best story market.  He published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in March 1920 and married Zelda Sayre soon after.  His success and the extravagant lifestyle of the young couple soon earned him a reputation as a bit of a playboy.  He also became known as a heavy drinker, though he always wrote sober.  After the publication of his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, and the birth of his child, Frances Scott (Scottie) Fitzgerald, in 1921, the Fitzgeralds moved to Long Island where F. Scott wrote short stories to cover the family’s debt after his play, The Vegetable, failed to make it into production.  The family moved to France in the spring of 1924 so that F. Scott would be able to focus on his newest project, the novel that would become The Great Gatsby.

Before it became The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s novel went through many revisions and forms. Special Collections has in its possession a facsimile of one such early edition, entitled Trimalchio. This is an allusion to a Roman novel, The Satyricon by Petronius.  In this novel, Trimalchio is a freedman who has amassed power and wealth and shows this off by hosting exceedingly lavish dinner parties for his numerous guests.  This copy includes correspondence between Fitzgerald and a man by the name of Perkins, Fitzgerald’s friend and an employee of his publishers, in which Perkins makes suggestions for revision and suggests using a different title (pictured below right).

Shortly after this, Fitzgerald rewrote several aspects of his novel and reordered key scenes, such as the one where Gatsby’s past is illuminated.

Fitzgerald restructured the plot to make certain elements more meaningful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gatsby we know today comes in many different forms and editions.  One of the more unique Gatsbys at Special Collections comes in the form of a fantastical graphic novel adaptation by Nicki Greenberg, in which Jay Gatsby is portrayed as a seahorse
and the others as any number of creatures.

Votes are now being taken for guesses as to what kind of creature Daisy is.

 

There are also a number of more conventionally illustrated editions of The Great Gatsby in existence, such as the 1980 Limited Editions Club which is illustrated by artist Fred Meyer, whose recognizable style brings the Jazz Age to life on the page.

An illustration by Fred Meyer of Gatsby's mansion during one of his famous parties.

 

Most people are familiar with The Great Gatsby after having spent some time studying it at either a high school or college level.  From Professor Lago’s collection, we have her copy of The Great Gatsby, which has been heavily annotated for use as a teaching tool.  Her extensive notes comment on such key themes as morality and hope.  On the page shown here, she notes the importance of color symbolism, among other things.

In the years after The Great Gatsby was published, Fitzgerald began work on his fourth novel, Tender is the Night.  Work on this novel was put on hold throughout the years due to Zelda Fitzgerald’s declining mental and physical health.  During her stay in a clinic in Switzerland, F. Scott returned to writing short stories for income.  He completed Tender is the Night in 1934, though it was ultimately a commercial failure.

In the summer of 1937, Fitzgerald went to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter.  It was there that he began an affair with columnist Sheilah Graham.  After MGM Studios dropped his contract at the end of 1938, he worked as a freelance script writer and continued writing short sories.  He began work on his last novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, in 1939 and had more than half of it written when he died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940.

Though Fitzgerald was not much of a commercial success during his lifetime, he is now considered to be the author of one of the “great American novels” and is esteemed for his accurate portrayals of the Jazz Age.  Many of his works, including collections of his short stories, are available for use by patrons in the Reading Room of Special Collections.

 

Bruccoli, Matthew J. “A Brief Life of Fitzgerald.” Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, n.d. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.fscottfitzgeraldsociety.org/biography/index.html.

“Trimalchio.” Trimalchio. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.
<http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Trimalchio.html>.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Comic Collection, Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Teaching spotlight: Sean Franzel

Sean FranzelProfessor Sean Franzel from the German and Russian Studies department is our guest for the Teaching Spotlight this month. His research interests span the culture, philosophy, and history of eighteenth- to twentieth-century Germany and include the history of education and the university; media theory; German Idealism and Romanticism; and the history of the novel. Professor Franzel is a frequent visitor to the Special Collections and Rare Books department, and we were delighted to have a chance to ask him a few questions.

SC: How did you incorporate Special Collections into your teaching?

I have used SC repeatedly for two courses I teach. In a graduate seminar on the literature of the medieval and baroque periods in Germany, I usually take the students in for two separate visits. First we look at an introductory selection of Special Collections’ excellent medieval manuscripts and representative early printed books (incunabula). We then go in a second time to examine SC’s sixteenth century emblem books. This was a very popular pedagogical genre throughout Europe at the time that placed poetry and allegorical images side-by-side. For me it is important that my students get an initial sense that what literature is and does has changed so much since antiquity. It is also very important for students to think about how books operate on visual and textual levels; emblem books are great for discussing this, because they are all about the interaction between text and image.

Students from Sean Franzel's class doing research in Special CollectionsIn my undergraduate Introduction to German Literature course, we do a section on children’s literature, and we go in to SC to look at their excellent collection of children’s books. This is fun for students because they learn to appreciate how books for children have played such a wide range of functions throughout history, from basic ABC primers for reading the Bible to very imaginative fantasy books. I ask students to look at the books and think about differences in form, function, design, audience, etc. Basically, I think that taking students to special collections is a way to awaken their curiosity as well as their critical ability to differentiate between the various functions that books and other media have had over time.

SC: What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?

Student from Sean Franzel's class doing research in Special CollectionsI think students respond really well to the visits; inspired papers and active discussions usually ensue in the class sessions following a visit. In an age when every assignment or paper can appear in uniform PDF-format on a laptop or e-reader, it is really important to hold actual books in our hands. Sometimes even just the realization that books used to be made on papyrus or animal skin is enough to change the way we think about how we process information today in the digital age. Personally I also love going into SC because I learn something new each visit. I get a lot out of trying to imagine the socio-historical contexts in which books were made and used— it is amazing how many new insights come from actually holding the books in your hands! In fact, my trips to SC have inspired me to get a more systematic introduction to book history, and I am going to take a course this summer at the UVA Rare Books School on the history of the book. I am very excited about this, and about incorporating more book history into my teaching.

SC: What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

There is so much interesting material in our library, chances are that it has something relevant for most courses, even if simply to shed light on the history of certain issues across the sciences and the humanities. And it is hard not to sign on to spending a class session looking at cool stuff! So even if instructors do not have a clear idea about what they want to do, they should contact the SC librarians for advice and guidance. Alla Barabtarlo and her team are all extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and eager to show students what the library has to offer!

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Classes, Rare Book Collection, Spotlight
Archives

Special Collections and Rare Books


Find Us on Facebook