Carrie Allen Tipton on “Race, Class, and Music in The Great Gatsby”

We at The Avid Listener are delighted to introduce yet another new author to our readers: Carrie Allen Tipton. Carrie is an Independent Scholar and Academic Editor based in the Houston area and is Director of Education for the Bach Society Houston.

Carrie’s essay about The Great Gatsby delves into issues of race and class not only in the original novel, but also in various film adaptations. For anyone who teaches this novel, Carrie’s essay is a treasure trove of music featured in the book. Music in recent adaptations reflects more contemporary styles, and Carrie weighs the music in these adaptations against modern notions of race and class.

Here’s a teaser: “The Great Gatsby turned ninety last year. What does its antihero—floating dead on a bloody mattress in the pool outside his nouveau riche palace, a casualty in some indirect sense of the American dream—have to say to us? Does his tale offer any relevant cultural critique to a nation nearly a century removed from its publication? We must think so, because we keep revisiting it: in English classrooms, in the iconic 1974 Robert Redford film, in John Harbison’s opera of the late 1990s, and in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film. The musical dimensions of these iterations loom large; Gatsby, shot through with references to the popular music of the jazz age, invites sonic treatment in a way that most of the American literary canon does not. Luhrmann’s film in particular opens an interpretive window onto how music functions rhetorically in the novel.”

Read the entire essay here. We’ve got more essays on the way from Carrie, so stay tuned! If you are interested in other essays about music and literature, try “Art Mimics Art: Anthony Burgess’s Napoleon Symphony: A Novel in Four Movements,” “Survival through Song,” “Heavy Metal Elves,” and “American Folk Rock Cattle Raid: The Decemberists’s The Tain,” all by Kendra Preston Leonard.

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

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