"Gatsby Without Greatness" (Roger Ebert)

Discussion in 'High School' started by Mark94544, Jul 12, 2011.

  1. Mark94544

    Mark94544 Companion

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    Jul 12, 2011

    Roger Ebert wrote a heartfelt attack on an abridged edition of The Great Gatsby (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2011/07/_did_it_seem_to.html).

    It was especially timely, because my stepdaughter is struggling with Gatsby right now, as summer reading for AP English. She's frustrated by the complexity of the writing and vocabulary, as were most of the students I encountered in classrooms.

    She's also expected to read "Death of a Salesman."

    Wow, there we are: two classic stories about older white men, at stages of life our kids can't easily comprehend. I object to the use of these two particular works for most 11th-grade students, because they force students through a dismal, miserable experience of works which they may never return to appreciate.

    I endured reading both works in high school, but despised nearly all of that experience, and would absolutely never have chosen to re-read either.

    But decades later, I was shocked, while preparing for a week-long substitute teaching assignment, at how beautiful The Great Gatsby actually is, and how its words resonated within me. I re-read the entire novel, and tried to communicate the contrast of my two experiences reading this novel to my students.

    And yet, under no circumstances would I suggest that students read an abridged version of the novel.

    I recall being outraged, while subbing in another English classroom, that students' entire experience of Moby-Dick consisted of reading two chapters excerpted in their textbook, and watching the movie. The two chapters didn't fairly represent Melville's writing or the work itself.
     
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  3. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I actually loved Death of a Salesman in high school. I would never encourage students to read abridged versions of things, and they don't allow students to take AR tests on the in our library.
     
  4. LUCHopefulTeach

    LUCHopefulTeach Habitué

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I love love love The Great Gatsby. I named my dog Gatsby afterall.
     
  5. Drama Teach

    Drama Teach Rookie

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I loved reading both of those works in High School. With my own students we tackled Death of a Salesman in class this year and it was changelling but I think the students could really relate to Biff and Linda. They even understood the plight of Willy.

    The only abridged work that I like is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. It is not meant to be read instead of reading the full lenght plays but is a humorous take on the works.
     
  6. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I am not a fan of having students read any work that is abridged.
     
  7. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I think it depends on how it is explained.

    When I teach Gatsby, my kids get really involved with the drama and complex character relationships. I'm sure they miss a lot of the other subtleties, but I rarely have anyone who *hates* the book. Most enjoy it to a reasonable level.
     
  8. AZMrs.S

    AZMrs.S Cohort

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I loved reading The Great Gatsby in high school... I was the only one in my class who didn't hate it! :) It is still on of my favorite books!
     
  9. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I have taught the Gatsby for 6 years. It took my 4 years to LOVE the book, but now I think it is beautiful literature. I never get students that HATE it, but it isn't the favorite of very many of my students.
     
  10. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I read Gatsby in 10th grade and just loved it. Can't same the same for Death of a Salesman. I don't remember anyone hating Gatsby. I love that time period.
     
  11. Mrs. Q

    Mrs. Q Cohort

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    Jul 12, 2011

    I do agree that part of it is the teacher, the students you have, etc. I absolutely LOVED Gatsby as an 10th grader (AP) and I still love it today, but I do think I was one of a few.

    And yes, I am morally opposed to most if not all abridged versions. Totally not the same.
     
  12. jen12

    jen12 Devotee

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    Jul 12, 2011

    Gatsby is one of my favorites. I first had to read it 8th grade. It was the first time I'd ever been assigned a full length novel as an assignment. I'm surprised an 11th grade AP student would have difficulty. If that's the case, perhaps a different approach is needed. Maybe instead of focusing on the middle aged white men, they should be looking for parallels to the American experience almost 100 years after the novel is set. You could even compare the characters in the novel to the self-absorbed folks populating reality TV these days.
     
  13. The Fonz

    The Fonz Math teacher (for now...)

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    Jul 13, 2011

    i have never read the great gatsby...not in high school and not in college...i don't even know what it is about.
     

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