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Acting, Rhetoric, and Interpretation in Selected Novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Saul Bellow

Jamal Assadi

This book discusses works by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Saul Bellow in terms of the conflicts between rhetorical people (actors replete with ever-changing roles, situations, and strategies, and therefore devoid of single roles) and serious people (actors who possess master situations or a referent reality to which they believe everyone can refer), players and doers, artifices and realities, words and the world, and multivocal and univocal interpretations. This book claims that Fitzgerald’s and Bellow’s treatment of the concepts of actors and acting in their novels provides insights into the dynamic potential of the trope as presented by recent critics and reveals how some literary theories need refinement and modification.

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Chapter Three Acting as Entertainment 43

Extract

Chapter Three Acting as Entertainment1 Dick’s Theory of Acting2 So extensive is Fitzgerald’s use of the acting image in Tender is the Night that references to acting, the actor’s profession and the stage are deployed everywhere in the novel. Dick is first introduced by Rosemary Hoyt, the Hollywood actress, as “the man in the jockey cap” who is “giving a quiet little performance for [his] group” (TITN, 1985, 14). While with her at the studio, he is approached by another actress who talks to him under the impression that he is “an actor” from London (225). The Villa Diana, where Dick lives and often holds his parties, is termed “a stage” (38). According to Kaethe Franz, Nicole “cherishes her illness as instrument of power. She ought to be in the cinema” (251); for Nicole, Tommy Barban, who takes the place of Dick as Nicole’s husband, looks like figures “in the movies” (280) and she relishes his company because she thinks he is “the most dramatic person” (303). Rosemary Hoyt is familiar only with the behavior of theatrical people: “Actors and directors— those were the only men she had ever known” (280). Mrs. McKisco’s eyes are “photographic” (18), Mr. Campion, who has a movie camera, refers to the duel between Barban and McKisco as “a circus” with the latter as a tragic “clown” (209). And Mary North and Lady Caroline Silbey-Biers dress themselves as sailors to pick up girls but pretend the incident is an innocent escapade once they are caught...

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