The Roaring Twenties: Fitzgerald, Hemingway and the Glamour of Literature

This one-week course will focus on quintessential figures of "the Lost Generation” and the lingering impact of the 1920s today.


The start of the 2020s and the post-pandemic period had led to much commentary about a new ‘Roaring Twenties’. The term refers back to the period of the 1920s when society, culture and the arts experienced a vibrant reawakening after the traumas of World War 1 and the Spanish Flu. But what were the Roaring Twenties really and what do they have to tell us about our situation in the 2020s?

Patricia Brox tunes a radio in the mid 1920s (exact date unknown).

This one-week course will focus on those quintessential figures of what Gertrude Stein called ‘the Lost Generation’: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. We will cover the biographical backgrounds, their experiences of WW1, and how these were reflected in their writings. We will focus to the denizens of post-war Paris – Pablo Picasso, Josephine Baker, James Joyce, Cole Porter and many others. Hemingway’s fictional treatment of Paris in The Sun Also Rises (1926) and his memoirs of A Moveable Feast (1964) will orient our interest, supplemented by other memoirs by Malcolm Cowley and Gertrude Stein, and fictional accounts from Djuna Barnes, amongst others. And we will consider the ultimate 20s novel, The Great Gatsby and its seminal influence in creating the myth of the ‘Roaring Twenties’.

Over the week, we will understand the ways in which our contemporary period is still living in the shadow of the 1920s. This decade is the beginning of women voters, the start of radio, talking cinema and a modern transportation system of personal automobiles. It is a time of art deco architecture, jazz clubs, flappers and Prohibition. It is also the period in which literature became associated with modern glamour: with fashion, style, travel, Hollywood, journalism, fame and wealth. We will look beneath the seductive image of the 1920s to see how it reflects our present concerns and anxieties and what we can learn from their escape into luxury.

Course Outline

Set Texts
(Use of Oxford University Press editions is recommended.)

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flappers and Philosophers, especially, ‘The Ice Palace’, ‘Berenice Bobs Her Hair’, ‘The Jelly Bean’, ‘The Rich Boy’, ‘Winter Dreams’, ‘The Last of the Belles’, ‘Babylon Revisited’.
  • Ernest Hemingway, Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  • Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (1964)