006_ARTICLE5_2009 - RACE AND CLASS IDENTITY IN THE GREAT...

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R ACE AND C LASS I DENTITY IN T HE G REAT G ATSBY AND P ASSING Keywords: The Great Gatsby, Passing, Race, and Class John Crocker graduated from USC Upstate in December of 2008, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English with an emphasis in American Literature. He is currently working as an OSP Career/Transfer Advisor at USC Union. “This research project allowed me to explore many of my current interests, including race, class, and American literature. I was able to look at Modernist American society from various scientific and sociological perspectives, and apply them to two prominent novels of that period. I particularly enjoyed seeing the shifting attitudes towards race that were beginning to take root during the early part of the 20th century, and being able to see these attitudes reflected in these novels.” Dr. Celena Kusch . Dr. Celena E. Kusch is an Assistant Professor of American Literature in the Department of Languages, Literature and Composition at the University of South Carolina Upstate. With a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Kusch specializes in early twentieth- century modernism, with a secondary specialization in postcolonial literature. She has published articles on the issues of cosmopolitanism, transnationalism, and American identity in the journals American Literature and the Journal of Modern Literature . Her research focuses on the modernist writers H. D., Marianne Moore, Bryher, and Dorothy Richardson. Abstract . During the 1920s, scientific studies that viewed the African American race as biologically inferior were being contested and replaced by various sociological studies of American society, which examined American culture and its hierarchical nature, concluding that inferiority was determined not by scientific evidence, but rather by the dominant race or group. This paper uses these scientific and sociological studies to analyze F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Nella Larsen’s Passing , in order to show how these texts reflect this changing idea of racial identity, while also exploring the implications of class identity and its relationship to race within these two texts. By examining Larsen’s Clare Kendry and John Bellew, as well as Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, this essay highlights the complexities of race, class, and cultural identity found during the modernist period. The focus on the deaths of the “passing” characters of Clare Kendry and Jay Gatsby shows the various modes of social control that are inherent within the novels and how they relate to American modernist society. This paper concludes that white racial dominance proves to be the most explicit form of social control within the two works. Fitzgerald and Larsen address this issue by agreeing with sociological studies that viewed African Americans as biological and intellectual equals, rather than inferiors, while both parodying and critiquing characters hostile to these emerging ideas.
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Race and Class Identity in The Great Gatsby and Passing
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