John D. Rockefeller V

Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University

John D. Rockefeller V

John D. Rockefeller V

Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University

Biography

JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER V, PhD. Dr. Rockefeller lectures for The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. He earned a Ph.D. in English and American Literature at Johns Hopkins University in 2008. After receiving a B.A. in Literature from Yale University in 1992, he was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany. He is the recipient of grants from National Endowment for the Humanities, the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and Germany’s Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst.



Rockefeller has taught a variety of courses at Johns Hopkins since 1995: “The American Political Novel”, “Dostoevsky, Fitzgerald, and Surrealism: Ethics and American Modernism”, “Fitzgerald’s Literature of Madness and Critique of Progressivism”, “Faulkner and Southern History”, “Faulkner, Morrison, and the Bible”, “Faulkner and Greek Tragedy”, and “Hollywood and American Politics: WWI to WWII”.



Rockefeller is currently at work on “Something of a Saint and Something of a Hero”: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Restoration of Herbert Croly’s Progressivism during the Prohibition Era. Fitzgerald’s literature is often admired for the beauty and elegance of its lyrical cadence, but seldom respected for the depth and rigor of its intellectual commitments. Disarmed by the lustrous veneer of Fitzgerald’s prose, Fitzgerald scholars have failed to recognize the intricate logic at work beneath the surface of his novels. Because they have not detected the salient cryptic allusions to other works that Fitzgerald sprinkles throughout his novels, scholars have failed to appreciate the political force behind those allusions. By analyzing these cryptic allusions, we’ll tap into the political marrow that runs through the skeletal structure not simply of any one of the four novels Fitzgerald completed, but of every single one of them. The novels Fitzgerald published in his lifetime emerged out of entirely different political contexts. And yet, they deliver the same political argument with stubborn tenacity: a veiled critique of the progressive movement’s embrace of the cause of prohibition. So, although This Side of Paradise (1920) was written at the peak of the progressive movement’s political power during the Wilson administration, although The Beautiful and Damned (1922) and The Great Gatsby (1925) were written at the nadir of the progressive movement’s political power during the Harding and Coolidge administrations (respectively), and although Tender is the Night (1934) was written at the beginning of the resuscitation of the progressive movement’s political power during the Roosevelt administration, these novels’ varying drumbeats are all set to the same tune: Fitzgerald’s lament that progressivism has detached itself from its pre-Prohibition roots in the economic vision for a progressive America that Herbert Croly first articulated in The Promise of American Life (1909). But until now the elusive nature of Fitzgerald’s cryptic allusions has caused his singular political commitment throughout the 1920s and 1930s to go unrecognized.



The passage of the 18th Amendment marked the pinnacle of the progressive movement’s political power in the first three decades of the twentieth century. And yet, as early as 1919 Fitzgerald perceived Prohibition as a political victory not worth the sacrifice inherent in its achievement. When the progressive movement embraced the cause of prohibition, he felt it betrayed its singular constitutive principle: providing all Americans with equal access to the same economic opportunities. Consequently, Fitzgerald wrote Gatsby as a polemic against the progressive movement’s preoccupation with the trivial matter of preventing Americans from indulging a personal vice: the consumption of alcohol. The movement should have instead remained focused on Croly’s primary progressive mission.



That’s why Fitzgerald repeatedly depicts his protagonists failing either to assume or to perform the social duty Croly prescribed to America’s elite: the task of providing “examples of heroism and saintliness” for their fellow citizens to imitate. Roosevelt inaugurated the New Deal by specifically legislating an end to the Prohibition era. And yet, even though Fitzgerald composed Tender is the Night at the dawn of this return to Croly’s progressive vision, he still delivered essentially the same critique of the progressive movement in the mid 1930s that he delivered in the early and mid 1920s. Why? Because he feared that Roosevelt posed the same danger to progressivism that Prohibition did: an obsession with personal interests that threatened to subsume the country’s national interests. Fitzgerald was concerned that in the same way that prohibitionists used the powers of the state to bowdlerize one of its citizens’ personal vices (the consumption of alcohol), Roosevelt might use the powers of the state to indulge his own personal vices—vices Fitzgerald feared Roosevelt might develop as a result of the country’s willingness to confer upon Dr. New Deal whatever extraordinary powers he claimed were necessary to cure its economic woes. Fitzgerald therefore sought to caution the nation about allowing Roosevelt to become the kind of dictator who had already emerged both internationally (in the form of Italy’s Prime Minister Benito Mussolini) and domestically (in the form of Louisiana governor and senator Huey P. Long, until his assassination in 1932)—and who had recently been heralded in Hollywood by Gregory La Cava’s Gabriel Over the White House (1933).



Fitzgerald, however, conceived his novels not only as critiques of the progressive movement, but also as remedies for what he considered to be its essential problem. Each novel foregrounds at least one American who, despite an absence of elite Americans showing him the way, commits himself to the vestigial project of restoring Croly’s form of progressivism during political climates hostile to Croly’s vision—be it Prohibition or even the New Deal. By imitating an elite American (no less than Croly, himself), Fitzgerald casts himself as the sole American dedicated to the mission of carrying Croly’s progressive torch. That’s the force behind Fitzgerald’s decision to conceive each one of his four novels as cryptic imitations not simply of Croly’s seminal work, but of an aggressive number of other elite works of politics, political philosophy, history, religion, and literature—among them: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “The Forgotten Man”, Plato’s allegory of the cave in Book VII of The Republic, Charles J. Stillé’s Major-General Anthony Wayne and the Pennsylvania Line in the Continental Army, Athanasius’s The Life of Saint Anthony the Great, Gustave Flaubert’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent. By imitating Croly foremost among other canonical writers, Fitzgerald assumed the social duty of modeling to his fellow citizens the “examples of heroism and saintliness” that Croly prescribed to members of his class. Above all else, Fitzgerald is dedicated to advancing two fundamental claims in his novels: first, that in the 1920s and 1930s elite Americans were failing to model to their fellow Americans the example of social responsibility that Croly modeled to him in 1909; and second, that by heeding Croly’s call throughout his literary career, Fitzgerald was the lone American committed to remedying this national failure.



An avid chess player, Rockefeller coaches the chess club at his daughters’ school.



Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University
M.A. Johns Hopkins University
M.A. Johns Hopkins University
B.A. Yale University

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1723

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Chess

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Former Governor of West Virginia

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Deputy General Counsel at Johns Hopkins University

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Executive Director of Internal Audits at Johns Hopkins University

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Vice Provost for Information Technology & Chief Information Officer at Johns Hopkins University

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Director, Head & Neck Cancer Research Division at Johns Hopkins University

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Director of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University

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President & Chief Executive Officer Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University

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Associate Director, State Affairs at Johns Hopkins University

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Vice President for Development & Alumni Relations at Johns Hopkins University

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Founding Member at International AIDS Vaccine Initiative

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John D. Rockefeller V
Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University
Education
B.A. in Literature
Class of 1992

Yale University is an American private Ivy League research university located in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

M.A.

To educate students, to foster independent & original research, and to share benefits discovered.

Career History
Faculty Member
1995 - Current

To educate students, to foster independent & original research, and to share benefits discovered.

Awards & Honors
Fulbright Scholar
Other Affiliations

John D. Rockefeller V is affiliated with Johns Hopkins University

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