NONFICTION

Gatsby's Oxford: Scott, Zelda, and the Jazz Age Invasion of Britain: 1904–1929

Pegasus. Apr. 2019. 354p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781643130095. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781643131092. LIT
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Weaving literature and history, Snyder (The Making of Middle-earth: A New Look Inside the World of J.R.R. Tolkien) here takes a new historicist approach, presenting a social history of Oxford and its influence during the Jazz Age, which he connects to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby. Building on Fitzgerald's interest in the "Oxford novels," a type of bildungsroman, Snyder explores the often unexamined role of the university in Gatsby's life and in the novelist's consciousness. Accounts of writers such as T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, W.B. Yeats, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien about their time at Oxford emphasize its importance as a premier university for study and making connections. Of particular interest is the role of the Rhodes scholarship in bringing students, especially Americans, to Oxford beginning in 1903, many of whom returned home to become educational reformers and societal leaders.
VERDICT Through extensive research, Snyder has succeeded in revealing Oxford in all of its medieval glory and the hold it had on Fitzgerald's creativity. Recommended for scholars and general readers interested in a unique explication of The Great Gatsby and an informative cultural history.

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