Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Richard L. Harp

Number of Pages



This study examines how nervousness and the ideas that came to be associated with it manifest themselves in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, often influencing both the characters and themes in his fiction; Chapter one traces the development of what is referred to as a "nervous discourse" from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, revealing how the pre-Enlightenment sense of nervous, which signified strength, gradually gave way to a meaning which indicates agitation or timidity and implies a sense of weakness. In addition, this chapter demonstrates that nervousness, even within medical literature, became linked to a number of other cultural ideas, particularly modernity, social status, gender, and sensibility; Chapter two examines how the ideas connected with nervousness can be seen in Fitzgerald's early work and This Side of Paradise, particularly in his treatment of nervous mothers, restless children, and enervation. Chapter three demonstrates that dissipation and hysteria became connected with nervous discourse, and that these ideas are contrasted with efficiency in The Beautiful and Damned and several of Fitzgerald's other stories from this period. Chapter four discusses the nervous men who fall in love with nervous women in The Great Gatsby and other fiction Fitzgerald published from 1922 to 1927, which reveals that nervousness had a different significance for characters of different genders. Chapter five demonstrates how the theme of vitality which runs through the Basil and Josephine stories, Tender is the Night, and The Crack-Up essays is associated with the nervous system, and that Fitzgerald conceived of his artistic and emotional crisis in the 1930s as a type of nervous bankruptcy, while it also examines how the theme of degeneration emerges during this period of Fitzgerald's career. And chapter six concludes the study by revealing that some of Fitzgerald's ideas regarding nervousness began to change in the final years of his life, as can be seen in The Love of the Last Tycoon, and that after Fitzgerald's death, the "age of anxiety" came to displace Fitzgerald's nervous era.


Dissipation; Fitzgerald, F. Scott; Hysteria; Nervousness; Scott; Vitality; Works

Controlled Subject

American literature; Languages, Modern

File Format


File Size

6277.12 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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