Bookmark these nonfiction texts for your next Gatsby unit
Well, we did it. Last week, my students and I finished our abbreviated unit on The Great Gatsby. It was a whirlwind, but we made it through chapter 7 in the book just before watching the 2013 Baz Luhrman movie.
I even managed to treat my two classes to Martinelli’s sparkling apple and peach juice and seasoned pretzels as a kind of mini-Gatsby bash on the first day of the movie.
Full disclosure: No, I don’t normally recommend reading only part of a book, but this last minute Gatsby unit wasn’t in my original plan.
I taught it after a sizable number of students said they wanted to keep with it after listening to chapter one during our First Chapter Friday ritual.
Recently on this blog, I’ve been previewing lesson ideas and resources to use the next time I teach The Great Gatsby, which will probably be around December next school year. Here are those other Gatsby resources:
- Last week, I shared with you three articles that students could read independently, or in groups, and then respond to with discussion, a low-stakes writing activity, or a brief small group presentation where students could teach the rest of the class the premise of the article. Another idea: use these articles for Article of the Week (AOW) assignments. Create your own prompt for the articles or have students choose their prompt from this list of six.
- Two weeks ago, I posted with the chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the movie.
- Three weeks ago, I posted with three poems to pair with the book.
- Next week, I’ll share with you some video resources.
This week, as promised, I’m previewing below three additional articles to pair with The Great Gatsby. I plan to use one or more of these next winter when I teach the novel again probably around Christmas break.
Three MORE articles to pair with The Great Gatsby
This 2011 BBC News article by Tom Geoghegen touches on several themes in the novel. For example, Geoghegen writes, “‘The novel is not really about the end of the American Dream but the opening up of it,’ says Keith Gandal, a professor at City University of New York.”
“Gatsby’s failure to enter the highest class in social terms and move into that class isn’t about money but the Wasp elite pushing back in the 1920s against ethnic Americans.
Not only do they close ranks against outsiders like Gatsby but they destroy him and escape punishment for it, says Mr. Gandal, which is a very modern theme.
Tom and Daisy just skip off and that resonates more than anything else.
There’s a sense [today] that it’s the super-rich on Wall Street who made this happen. I’m sure that resonates terrifically with middle-class Americans.”The Great Gatsby: What It Says to Modern America by Tom Geoghegan
Even though this article is ten years old and speaks to the 2008 recession, this discussion point is still timely.
Money can provide the means to escape accountability as Tom and Daisy prove after Myrtle’s death.
This 2013 article in Smithsonian Magazine will help you create historical context for the novel, which stems from Fitzgerald’s purpose for writing it.
Writer Amy Henderson, a historian at the National Portrait Gallery, cites Fitzgerald biographer Arthur Mizener:
“Fitzgerald wrote his agent Maxwell Perkins in 1922: ‘I want to write something new. . . something extraordinary and beautiful and simple.’ Like today, newness was fueled by innovation, and technology was transforming everyday life. Similar to the way social media and the iPhone shape our culture now, the Twenties burst with the revolutionary impact of silent movies, radio and recordings.”Amy Henderson in What the Great Gatsby Got Right About the Jazz Age
Technology was changing the culture of the country, including introducing the idea of “celebrity.” Much like the Internet has transformed modern society, motion pictures, air travel, and radio transformed the America of the 1920s.
Use this article to talk about copyright law with your students. You could even ask students to invent ideas for sequels, prequels, and other adaptations of Gatsby since legally they are able to do so since Jan. 1, 2021. Writer Annabel Gutterman writes in TIME in this piece from January:
“…Gatsby enters U.S. public domain on Jan. 1. Literary works are protected from replication for a certain number of years, depending on when they came out. When the copyright for Fitzgerald’s classic novel of greed, desire and betrayal expires, anyone will be able to publish the book and adapt it without permission from his literary estate, which has controlled the text for the 80 years since his death.”The Great Gatsby’s Copyright is Expiring by Annabel Gutterman in TIME
That means that students can create all sorts of Gatsby spin-offs. Here’s an example by author Dick Heese that might spark some creativity:
According to product information found on Amazon: “Through the use of throw-away references to Nick Carraway’s scoliosis, he (Heese) reimagines the American classic to include the narrator being afflicted with a curved spinal structure. Nick’s mild deformity does nothing to change the original plot of the novel in any capacity. Undoubtedly, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s estate is ruing the release of their copyright into the public domain.”
The expiration of a copyright is a big deal. Get your kids thinking about what that could mean — for better and for worse — to readers, authors, and their family members.
To be sure, many popular early 20th-century literature selections will be seeing their copyrights expire over the next few years. This NPR article, Party Like It’s 1925 on Public Domain Day, discusses this issue and contains links to lists of more books that are now “free for anyone to use, reuse, build upon for anyone — without paying a fee.” Other notable books with expired copyrights: Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.
So there you go…
Three MORE articles to pair with The Great Gatsby. I hope one or more of these comes in handy as you plan your next teaching of this great American novel brought to us by Scott (and Zelda).
Feel free to leave your ideas, experiences, and comments about your own Gatsby units, including how you incorporate nonfiction texts into your lessons. Have a great week!
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