A Liverpool Hope University academic is set to appear on a flagship BBC Radio 4 programme this week to discuss classic American novel The Great Gatsby.
Dr William Blažek is Associate Professor and Reader in American Literature at Hope.
And he’s pleased to have been invited to appear on an edition of Radio 4’s In Our Time show, hosted by Melvyn Bragg, which celebrates author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal work.
The programme, which airs 14th January at both 9.00am and 9.30pm, explores a 100 year legacy for Fitzgerald, whose career as a novelist began in 1920.
And Dr Blažek says that because the novel highlights the dark underbelly of the American ideal, it’s just as relevant now as it was when it first hit shelves in 1925.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the BBC sum-up the plot of The Great Gatsby by revealing how it’s told by Nick Carraway, neighbour and friend of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby.
The BBC adds: “In the age of jazz and prohibition, Gatsby hosts lavish parties at his opulent home across the bay from Daisy Buchanan, in the hope she’ll attend one of them and they can be reunited. They were lovers as teenagers but she had given him up for a richer man who she soon married, and Gatsby is obsessed with winning her back.”
Dr Blažek, founding co-editor of The F. Scott Fitzgerald Review and Vice-President of the international F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, reveals: “The novel relates to American promise and opportunity, but also to class barriers that are often in place and to the privilege of great wealth.
“Some, like Gatsby in the novel, have great talent and merit. Yet the channels for achieving success in America are sometimes blocked, and that’s what happens in the course of the novel.
“Gatsby served heroically in World War I, but afterwards the only way forward for him seems to be through underground means, such as bootlegging and bonds manipulation, along with some other nefarious and criminal activities.
“This novel is an example of what drives American idealism - the optimism and opportunities that America has to offer, to all nations and to all backgrounds.
“But at the same time the ideal is hard to achieve. There are still significant inequalities in American life.
“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer while the middle class have to be content to stay the same.
“Yet there remains what I call the infernal optimism and fervent idealism of America that still drives the country forward - which, paradoxically, is one underlying aspect of what we’ve seen with the Capitol riot that took place this past week.”
Dr Blažek says Fitzgerald’s novel speaks to the problems with the culture of self interest and the unfortunate decisions people like Gatsby have to make in order to follow their dreams.
Explaining how the novel combines great romantic lyricism with harsh satire, he adds: “Idealism haunts America. It’s part of the founding of the country but we have to remember that in its foundations there is also the stain of slavery and undemocratic voting rights.
“And the greatness of Gatsby is in the questioning of those fractured American ideals, alongside a longing for something better.”
The In Our Time programme briefly touches on the various movie versions of The Great Gatsby, with Dr Blažek plumping for the 1949 gangster-film version starring Alan Ladd, but having some admiration for Sam Waterston’s Nick Carraway in the 1974 film starring Robert Redford as Gatsby.
Meanwhile last year also saw Dr Blažek publishing an essay - “Gatsby’s Defunct Clock and the Philosophy of Time” - in the book Literature and Modern Time, which was edited by Liverpool Hope’s own Associate Professor Trish Ferguson.
** Tune-in to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time on Thursday 14th January, 9am.
An extended podcast version of the programme will also be made available after the radio broadcast, featuring added interviews and extras.
For full details, head here.
*** You can also check out the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society website here.