Dr Laura Rattray
- Reader in North American Literature (post 1900) (English Literature)
• 19th and 20th century American literature
• American literary modernism
• Edith Wharton
• F. Scott Fitzgerald
• American fiction of the 1930s
• women’s writing and gender
• the Hollywood novel and the writer in Hollywood
• transatlantic literary studies
• archival work and publishing history
Dr Laura Rattray is Reader in North American Literature. She took her first degree in English and American Studies at Birmingham University, her MA in Anglo-American Literary Relations at the University of London (UCL), and her PhD in modern American literature at the University of Manchester. She joined Glasgow University in January 2013, having previously been Senior Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Hull.
Laura has researched and published widely on the work of the American writer Edith Wharton, including time as a postdoctoral fellow examining the Wharton archives in the United States, and in Europe. She is editor of the two-volume The Unpublished Writings of Edith Wharton (2009), described in the Times Literary Supplement as a ‘masterful critical edition’, ‘a model of scholarly dexterity and critical sensitivity’, and of Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country: A Reassessment (2010), reviewed as a ‘landmark volume’ in American Literary Scholarship. For Cambridge University Press she recently edited Edith Wharton in Context (2012), bringing together a team of over thirty international scholars in a volume focused on the social, literary, cultural and political contexts that produced the writer and her long and prolific career
Laura’s varied American research interests are represented by her publications on the 1930s, publishing history, the writer in Hollywood, Horace McCoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, neglected women writers, and by her co-edited volume Twenty-First-Century Readings of Tender Is the Night (2007). She is currently completing a monograph on American fiction of the 1930s, working on topics including: the Hollywood novel, hardboiled fiction, Gone With the Wind, and modern gender roles.
She was recently awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship for a new Wharton-related project, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan. In 2011 she was the Edith and Richard French visiting fellow at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Other awards include: a British Association for American Studies Founders’ Research Travel Award, Edith Wharton Society Collection Research Award, British Academy research grant, British Academy overseas conference grant, and the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship, Lilly Library, Indiana University.
Laura was programme director for the Eleventh International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Conference in Lyon. She serves on the editorial board of The Edith Wharton Review and is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. In 2013 she is co-directing an international symposium to mark the centenary of The Custom of the Country
She welcomes PhD applications in any of her research fields.
Dr Rattray welcomes queries from prospective PhD students in any aspects of 19th and 20th century American literature, but especially in the areas of: American literary modernism, Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, American fiction of the 1930s, women’s writing and gender, the Hollywood novel and the writer in Hollywood, transatlantic literary studies, editing and archival research.
Dr Rattray convenes the honours level 3 course ‘American literature 2’ and the MLitt courses ‘American Fiction of the 1930s’, and ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton and Dialogues of American Literary Modernism’:
American Literature 2
This course investigates the wide range of American literature written since 1900. We will assess a variety of fiction, poetry and drama, considering the construction of an American literary canon and the extent to which that canon has been challenged by the emergence of ethnic literatures and writings by women. Lecture texts and topics will include: the American novel at the turn of the century (Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth); America and the Jazz Age (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby and Dorothy Parker, selected poetry and prose); Modernism and Legacies of War; the Hollywood novel (Horace McCoy, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?); and recent African American literature.
American Fiction of the 1930s
This course introduces students to a series of major developments in American fiction of the 1930s, examining a wide variety of texts - critically acclaimed, alongside critically neglected but commercially popular fiction, and work that has only recently come back into print:
With the supremacy of sound by the early thirties, the Hollywood studios began to import writers in unprecedented numbers to work on screenplays for the “talkies”, ensuring that some of the most famous names of 1930s American literature spent part of their careers working in the Hollywood studio system. Their experiences often resulted in forgettable screenplays, but unforgettable Hollywood novels, exposing the sordid reality behind the studio sheen and incorporating cinematic techniques into the fabric of the American novel. We will consider the Hollywood Novel genre, described by Leslie Fiedler as the great literary invention of the decade. Hollywood texts include Horace McCoy’s cult classic, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and Nathanael West’s apocalyptic vision, The Day of the Locust.
We will examine fictional representations of, and responses to, the Great Depression, including John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Josephine Johnson’s Now in November, a first novel by a twenty-four year old writer which was heralded as “the American Wuthering Heights” and won the Pulitzer Prize only for Johnson to disappear into the literary abyss before the end of the decade.
The course examines the best-selling novel of the decade, Margaret Mitchell’s blockbusting Gone With the Wind and the classic 1939 film it inspired, with Vivien Leigh in the coveted role of Scarlett O'Hara and Clarke Gable a reluctant Rhett Butler. We will consider the hardboiled, “tough-guy” literary tradition (James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice) and its snapshot of America during the Great Depression. Other topics include modern gender roles, the Harlem Renaissance, crime fiction, and resistance to cultural orthodoxies of the decade.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton and Dialogues of American Literary Modernism
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton can be seen as two of the most influential American writers of the first half of the twentieth century. Fitzgerald has been credited with creating the Jazz Age, imprinting youth and celebrity culture on the American literary consciousness before being mythologised as the writer destroyed by money, success and consumer excess. Edith Wharton, greatly admired by Fitzgerald, was one of America’s most popular and prolific writers, before becoming the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921 for The Age of Innocence.
This course explores the work and critical reputations of Fitzgerald and Wharton in a variety of genres, notably in relation to the writers’ dialogues with American literary modernism. Texts and topics include: the landmark modernist novel The Great Gatsby and literary representations of the Jazz Age; the American marketplace in The Custom of the Country and The House of Mirth; Wharton’s critiques of perceived modernist excess, her modernist subject matter and recent reappraisals of her relationship with modernism; the role of Europe and the American tradition of exile, filtered through Tender Is the Night and The Age of Innocence; the writers’ key contemporaries; recent film adaptations of the major work; lucrative careers as short story writers; and modern celebrity culture.