By Denise Barstow,
On Monday, February 10, the Lycee Nelson Mandela SIA Premieres class experienced the global classroom. To finish up their work on F.Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, they connected via Skype to watch a presentation on the major themes of the novel by University of Connecticut English Professor Jason Courtmanch.
Professor Courtmanch reminded the students of the importance of the 1920’s historical context of white power and privilege being called into question by the demographic changes caused by massive immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and the Great Migration northwards of African-Americans. The novel is about much more than the American Dream: it highlights the issues of Otherness and exclusion, and how people may be rejected by those in power. He insisted on the importance of studying this novel because of the many echos in today’s American society.
The Skype format allowed the students to ask their own questions in the second half of the presentation. They had prepared dozens of questions, for example they wanted to know more about the issues of crossing social and geographical boundaries, about who is the real hero of the novel, what makes Fitzgerald a unique author, and just how much can we believe the narrator’s version of the facts? The questions were truly relevant and the students gained new insights into the novel and the characters. They came away wondering how the story would be different if Jay Gatsby or Daisy Buchanan were bi-racial, and what if the true hero of the story is the minor character Owl-Eyes, the only one who truly sees Gatsby for what he is? Their reflections on the novel grew broader and deeper today, and should help them in their written and oral analyses. They are looking forward to their next real interaction in the virtual classroom!