Sport, Status, Narrative, and Nation: Sport Culture as Social Analysis in the Fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald

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McDonald, Jarom Lyle
Bryer, Jackson R.
This dissertation examines the ways that F. Scott Fitzgerald saw organized, spectator-based sports working to help structure concepts of status, community, and nationhood. With ]such an assumption, I argue that Fitzgerald sees the development of local and national spectatorship as a revealing and often paradoxical phenomenon in the interaction between the cultural narratives told by sport and the complex social relationships in America. Chapter one situates my arguments in the landscape of the late nineteenth/ early twentieth centuries by exploring how cultural stories of the modern American sports scene---those of attending ballparks, reading or listening to media, being a "fan"---cultivates communities of spectatorship inseparable from ideologies of status and hierarchy. Each of the next three chapters then takes this framework and explores how Fitzgerald's literature, conversing with sport culture historically and literarily, expresses the complexities of American class formations. Chapter two considers the "intense and dramatic spectacle" (to use Fitzgerald's words) of college football in This Side of Paradise as a lens for exploring links between spectatorship, emulation, and ideology. Chapter three continues to look at college football, this time in various short stories, in order to scrutinize relationships between the performative aspects of sports and the performative aspects of social status-groups. Chapter four scrutinizes how The Great Gatsby reveals the ways that romantic ideologies that label baseball as "America's Game" are undermined by the real class tensions surrounding baseball's spectator culture. Spectatorship creates a public arena for relating to "heroes" of sport and to fellow fans, emphasizing adulation and identification---even to the point of national identification. But at the same time, Fitzgerald's fiction demonstrates the necessity of allowing for criticism of these institutions. Through close, textual reading augmented with new historicist research and analysis, I examine why Fitzgerald's understanding of American sport culture helps us better realize how sport perpetuates American ideologies of status while simultaneously belying inherent ironies in American class stratification.