Gatsby: Critical theory LGQ 3/1/20 JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Lesbian, Gay, Queer So many writers : so much repressed sexuality. Note: 1974: USA removes homosexuality from psychiatrist lists of psychological illnesses 1990: USA removes ban on homosexual immigration Are we surprised so much has to be coded or repressed?
Society is still Heteronormative or Heterocentrist: heterosexuality is seen as the norm and is taken for granted in most social situations. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Lesbian and Gay Criticism A vast, developing and complex field. Lesbian crit sees lesbians as facing not just a patriarchal but also a hetero agenda and barrier of privilege. The key to getting to grips with this field is to recognise that we are not considering physical manifestations of lesbian or gay love, rather the orientation and outlook of the individual in terms of desire. All will respond differently depending on the individual response to their own sexuality. Thus the
focus is on coded messages the covert rather than overt presentations of lesbian sex especially when such writing would have been found to be illegal. Gay critics may well focus on sexual longing rather than overt sexual activity. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Common themes of Lesbian/Gay critique Initiation Coming out Dealing with intimidation Overcoming self hatred Loneliness and alienation Finding love
Building a life with a partner. BUT prior to mid 20th century, such topics were taboo. Hence literature can be read with an eye for sexual textual cues. These can create a homoerotic atmosphere when taken en masse and when built up as a pattern through the text. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Signs and cues Signs Stereotypes- the masculine woman and feminine man Linguistic devices, even down to use of the word gay Same sex doubles: look alike, act alike, dress alike, similar experiences Transgressive sexuality explored, including heterosexual affairs. Anything which breaks the
traditional rules of heteronormalcy. In all reading it is the build up and development of signs which might lead to a LGQ reading of a text. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Questions asked of a novel in Queer theory. What are the politics of specific LGQ works and how are these politics revealed in terms of theme and character? What poetics (literary devices and strategies) are used to present the material? What does the work add to LGQ theory and experience? How is the LGQ coded in otherwise hetero-normal texts? (especially pre mid 20 th century)
How can we re-read texts by hetero writers to show unspoken or unconscious LGQ presence (covert/overt messaging) What do we learn of heterosexism? Is the work homophobic? Does the work celebrate heterosexist values? What conflicts emerge? How does the work explore issues around sexuality and sexual identity? JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Considering The Great Gatsby Ideas which develop a Queer Theory reading of one of the most overtly hetero texts on the A level canon. A plot of heterosexual love triangles full of submissive women and dominant men. One cue becomes obvious: all relationships are transgressive in this novel either adultery or pre-marital sex. There are also suggestions of gay and lesbian transgression.
The narrator works actively as a procurer of sex for his male friend Pandarus a typically homosexual/eunuch role in much literature. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Transgression in the hotel de ville Tom picks up a girl said to be common but pretty Daisy and Gatsby retire to Nicks house Lists of potential transgressions among the guests: Beluga's girls (daughters/nieces/whores/employees); Hubert Auerbach and Mr Christys wife and many more The sense is that chez Gatsby, just as in NYC anything can happen anything at all. (Nick)
SIGNS The 2 girls in twin yellow dresses are a clear same sex double (as are Daisy and Jordan) JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 In the Apartment (Chapter 2) Focus on gratuitous sex at opening when Tom and Myrtle leave Nick to have sex next door. Then consider the curious case of Mr McKee. He is pale and feminine with a wife who has more masculine attributes. Focus is drawn when Nick wipes his cheek caring for his appearance He then follows McKee from the apartment at the end, with no invitation, with the promise of a lunch emerging. In the passage there is a heavy use of ellipsis we meant to feel that Nick is not quite sure of events, due to drink. Yet:
The focus of memory is of McKees bedroom and McKee in his underwear before memory is lost/suppressed and Nick awakes some time later in a different location. We are not told that a homosexual act has taken place. Maybe it has not, but the signs in the text can be read to suggest otherwise. Nick will use a similar loss of time when describing sex with Jordan in the Central Park episode. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Signs of Gatsby Colour matters in this text. The pink suit is an object of homophobic scorn to Tom, but receives a romantic treatment from Nick as though it were a womans dress: I could think of nothing but the luminosity of his pink suit under the moon suggests obsession, and links via the moon to the female and to chastity. Other colours tend to soft lavender for example. Both pink and lavender have long been associated with gay dress cues. Even the pile of shirts lack male signs in terms of colour and
design. The house is curiously feminine in aspect with Marie Antoinette music room a camp theatrical set (Belasco link) seen here and in the car a gorgeous cream penis substitute designed for allure and ultimately fatal. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Jordan he or she? The name could work equally for either sex The appearance is clearly designed to be androgynous references are regular to boys cadet, erect carriage, sports clothes, hard jaunty body. She does a male job, has male appearance and is attractive to Nick as a result. Jordan hides herself and avoids clever men who might see through her she feels safe living on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. This subterfuge allows her to
satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body. This is in no way a female description, unlike that of her same sex double Daisy. She and Gatsby fascinate Nick he focuses on Gatsbys femininity and Jordans masculinity. Both play a role in procuring lovers both seem fascinated in the sexual exploits of their doubles. Jordan/Daisy and Nick/Gatsby- a clear homoerotic fascination. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Nick Aged 30, single, rootless went to war and returned to a changed world. Contextually it was the war which allowed many homosexual people to come out - the repression of the pre-war years simply ceased to be an issue. Mid West: stable traditional family values
NYC: the racy, adventurous feel of it at night (Nick); sensuous (Jordan) West Egg: begotten of Broadway. (centre of Gay New York at the time) a world complete with its own standards So many signs and cues suggest Nick as having a gay sexual orientation, even if this does not mean overt sexual activity. He never openly explores his sexuality, though there are more signs typical of the closeted nature of his sexuality. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 Behaviours Nick seems repulsed by overt transgressional hetero sex Tom cheating cause him outrage yet he seems keen to foreground his own rather callous hetero behaviour. A number of affairs have to be cut off and dropped but we are told of them. He claims honesty and normality but Jordan sees through him at the end of the book they are
both careless drivers and neither is honest. And then this, discussed excellently by Lois Tyson in Critical Theory Today p336 JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 The moustache When Nick explains the need to drop a girl back West when attracted by Jordan, he writes this complicated sentence. Tyson points out that the girl in the west and that certain girl need not be one and the same. That certain girl is a turn of phrase used of a loved one in a relationship If this is the case it is Jordan who is described - her moustache being an object of desire. A clear Queer Symbol of attraction, therefore can be read in this slightly opaque sentence.
Even if Nick is unaware, a LGQ reading places his sexuality as gay and he tells the story through this lens even down to his homoerotic description of Tom, all muscles and bulging thighs, legs apart at the door of his castle. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018 FSF himself Do Fitzgeralds sexual leanings colour this text. Most of his writing is semi autobiographical at least He was said to be fascinated in the sexual antics of his friends - his conversation was all sex plain, striped, mixed and fancy (Zelda) Zelda suggests he has an affair with Hemmingway and that he sought to prove his macho credentials in buying whores she found the condoms. His homophobic statements against fairies who ruined his friendship with Hemingway to
whom he referred as Hemophile, the bleeding boy. Perhaps Fitzgerald appears twice: as Gatsby the feminine, and Nick the masculine. JONATHAN PEEL JLS 2018
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