This event will take place Wednesday, February 27, at 3 pm in Konover Auditorium, the Dodd Center. It is free and open to the public.
I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with the participants in this conversation: Joseph Flora, Visiting Professor in the English Department and Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Ellen Litman, Assistant Professor and Assistant Director, Creative Writing Program.
Over coffee, we enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation about the role of literature in our lives, the themes in Gatsby that we find most challenging, Fitzgerald as a writer, and more.
It’s great good luck that Professor Flora has been visiting here just at the time we’re reading The Great Gatsby for UConn Reads. A nationally renowned expert in early twentieth-century American literature, his book Hemingway’s Nick Adams won the 1982 Mayflower Award. He has also co-edited The Companion to Southern Literature and Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary, which received the 2006 Jules and Frances Landry Award.
I asked Professor Flora how he got interested in Fitzgerald. “My attraction to Fitzgerald evolved from a broad interest in American literature in the first half of the twentieth century,” he said. “His short story ‘Babylon Revisited’ sealed for me the conviction of how very good he was—even when writing a story that would first be published in The Saturday Evening Post for a popular audience. Working with Hemingway, I was repeatedly drawn back to Fitzgerald. His life as well as his fiction had much to tell us about his era and about what it means to be an artist.”
We are equally fortunate to have Professor Litman as a more permanent member of our UConn community. She is a specialist in twentieth-century Amercan literature, with an interest in Russian and immigrant literature. Her book The Last Chicken in America: A Novel in Stories was published by WW Norton in 2007.
We talked a lot about the meaning of Fitzgerald as an author in an international context – touching on her reading of classic literature as a young woman in Russia and on Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (2003), with its surprising take on Gatsby.
The three of us talked for a good while over coffee, but eventually classes and meetings pulled us in different directions. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversaion on the 27th and I can promise it will be a good one!