On Thursday, October 7, over a hundred undergraduates gathered to take in a presentation about the Great Gatsby. Dr. Lutes performed a miracle of precalculation to order pizzas, we moved the chairs out of the way to make room for whomever might come, those of us in costume read our parts over, and then all we had was to wait. We started being surprised at around 50 students, but in the end over 100 students showed up.
The goal of the evening was to remind them of what they knew of the Great Gatsby, and perhaps to challenge them to think about it in new ways. Dr. Lutes gave a quick presentation on new possibilities for reading The Great Gatsby, especially reminding the students how pronounced race is in the text. The four volunteer readers read a passage from the novel, the scene in which Gatsby shows Daisy his shirts and she bursts into tears. Then we broke into groups.
The discussion was lively! Each student was eager to contribute what they remembered to the discussion, and Dr. Lutes's prepping of the discussion leaders had given us some good ways to elicit reactions. My group focused primarily on the motivations of Daisy and Gatsby, understanding them as seeing each other more for what each represented, rather than for who they were, although that was complicated a little bit as we kept chatting. I found my group of (all girls!) ready to dialogue with each other.
There was a collection of majors present, and with the main goal of moving them toward a major in English, it did seem that the event was exciting to everyone, regardless of the path they will take. Just opening up anyone's eyes to the idea that talking about literature can happen over pizza and among friends, and can include pop culture references, was I think entirely eye-opening for some of these freshmen!