Critical Essays On F Scott Fitzgerald

Critical Essays On F Scott Fitzgerald-82
Since the so-called Fitzgerald revival had been building momentum during the twenty-odd years between Fitzgerald's death and Eble's book, his study draws heavily, of course, on the accumulated wisdom of scores of journal articles devoted to Fitzgerald during this time as well as on Miller's study.Eble, however, breaks new ground and the areas of his concern predict the directions of much of the scholarship that follows.

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Scott Fitzgerald: American Novelist and Short Story Writer, Reader's Guide to Literature in English, London: Fitzroy-Dearborn, 1995, pp. Reprinted with permission of Fitzroy-Dearborn Publishers. During his lifetime only a handful of serious critics conscientiously debated Fitzgerald's artistic development, and though they were quick to point out weaknesses as well as strengths, their assessments now have the eerie feeling of prophesy in predicting the status of Fitzgerald's posthumous literary reputation and the direction of the critical response that has established it during the five decades since his death. Since 1940 there have been hundreds of journal articles, a dozen biographical studies, and more than thirty critical volumes devoted to Fitzgerald and his work. Scott Fitzgerald (1957) is the first book-length critical study devoted exclusively to Fitzgerald's work.

EBLE's book does what few introductory works in a series such as the Twayne Series are able to do: it provides a comprehensive overview of the canon; it breaks new ground, particularly in its stylistic analysis of major works; and it provides, as we can now see in retrospect, a blueprint for the direction of Fitzgerald studies in the three decades that follow it.

Eble systematically examines the novels and the stories against the backdrop of Fitzgerald biography, finally drawing conclusions about the relative strengths of the works, particularly the novels, by new-critical standards.

Eble shows, for example, how much stronger dramatic episodes in the Basil stories are artistically than those based on similar episodes drawn from life in Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, a point which leads to the conclusion that Fitzgerald does better with experiences that have had time to cool.

Eble also makes the point that Fitzgerald's seemingly magical leap in ability from his first two novels, which have glaring faults, to The Great Gatsby, his masterpiece, published only three years after The Beautiful and Damned, is less startling when one considers the brilliance of such early stories as "The Ice Palace" and "May Day," as well as isolated bursts of prose genius in even the weakest works.

The comprehensive studies were characteristically aimed at affirming Fitzgerald's position in the mainstream of American literary history and of deepening the reader's understanding of the precise nature of his achievement relative to the tradition of which he was a part. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoon, the last of the 1960's volumes, is built on the metaphor (first constructed in relation to Fitzgerald by Malcolm Lowry) of Apollo's priest, Laocoon, who, in Virgil's Aeneid, pierced the wooden horse with his spear to warn his countrymen against the trickery of the Greeks.

His Trojan countrymen paid him no attention, and Athena called serpents from the sea to destroy Laocoon and his sons.

He also includes pertinent sections of letters and reviews by Fitzgerald which indicate beyond much doubt that Fitzgerald's shift from the novel of saturation to the novel of selected incident was conscious and carefully reasoned.

Some will argue that Miller's choice for analysis of the Malcolm Cowley, "author's-final-intention" edition of Tender Is the Night, which reestablishes the novel's chronological sequence of events, is unfortunate in that this edition works against Miller's thesis.


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