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The Novels of Theodore Dreiser

The Novels of Theodore Dreiser: A Critical Study

Donald Pizer
Copyright Date: 1976
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The Novels of Theodore Dreiser
    Book Description:

    Relying heavily on the manuscripts and letters in the Dreiser Collection of the University of Pennsylvania Library, Professor Pizer seeks to establish the facts of the sources and composition of each of Dreiser’s eight novels and to study the themes and form of the completed works. In this study he relates what can be discovered about the factual reality of a novel to its imaginative reality. His interpretation of the novels avoids the suggestion that there is a single overriding theme or direction in Dreiser’s work and emphasizes that Dreiser deserves examination primarily on the basis of the individuality and worth of each of his novels. A separate chapter is devoted to each of the novels: Sister Carrie, Jennie Gerhardt, The “Genius,” The Financier, The Titan, An American Tragedy, The Bulwark, and The Stoic.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6406-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction: A Summer at Maumee
    (pp. 3-28)

    As has often been noted, Theodore Dreiser’s personal background differs significantly from that of most American writers of his generation. Unlike Hamlin Garland, Stephen Crane, and Frank Norris, who were of Protestant, Anglo-Saxon heritage and whose families had been long settled in America, Dreiser was the son of a Catholic German immigrant. And unlike the middle-class youth of these figures (including Garland, whose family owned their own land no matter how severe their labors), Dreiser spent his boyhood moving fron one Indiana town to another with his large and impoverished family while his father sought work as a millhand or...


    • Sister Carrie
      (pp. 31-95)

      Most of the general and many of the specific sources ofSister Carriehave been known for some years. Scholars have noted that Dreiser drew loosely upon the experiences of his sister Emma and her lover L. A. Hopkins for his account of Carrie and Hurstwood in Chicago, that much of Dreiser’s own sense of the wonder and terror and mystery of life enters into his characterization of Carrie adrift in Chicago and Hurstwood going under in New York, and that he borrowed directly from the work of George Ade and Augustin Daly. Recently, Ellen Moers devoted almost half of...

    • Jennie Gerhardt
      (pp. 96-130)

      During the summer of 1900, while Dreiser was in the midst of his controversy with Doubleday, Page over the publication ofSister Carrie, he noted in a letter to Arthur Henry that he was planning to write a second novel that winter.¹ Despite his chagrin at the “suppression” ofSister Carrieby Doubleday, Page upon its appearance in November, and despite increasing financial worries as he produced fewer and fewer potboiling articles, he began his new project on January 6, 1901.² By February 2 he had completed nine chapters ofJennie Gerhardt, writing in pencil on the same kind of...


    • The “Genius”
      (pp. 133-152)

      Dreiser began writingThe"Genius" in late December 1910, almost immediately after completingJennie Gerhardt. For the next five months he worked intensively on the novel, interrupted only by the need to revise the conclusion ofJennie Gerhardtin February. By late April he had finished a lengthy holograph draft and by midsummer the draft was in typescript.¹ Harper’s, which had in April accepted bothJennie GerhardtandThe"Genius,"² of course did not wish to publish simultaneously two long novels by the same author, andThe"Genius" was put "on ice"³ to await its turn.Jennie Gerhardt, because of...

    • The Cowperwood Trilogy
      (pp. 153-159)

      As the mas the ad of O. S. Marden’s magazineSuccessproclaimed in 1898, the way to wealth was Work, Sagacity, Honesty, Truth, Courage, and Energy. And as the journal’s many stories and interviews revealed, wealth as a goal in itself was far subservient both to the joy of labor and to the social beneficence which wealth made possible. Marden had united the Calvinistic and Horatio Alger ideals of the spiritual value of work with the late nineteenth-century emphasis upon mental strength and self-help and had achieved a potent restatement of the American myth of success.¹ The image advanced by...

    • The Financier
      (pp. 160-182)

      Sometime during the spring or early summer of 1911, after completing a first draft ofThe"Genius" and while revisingJennie Gerhardtfor publication, Dreiser began his research for a long novel based on the life of Charles T. Yerkes.¹ Early in August, he wrote Mencken that "The data for book four—The Financier—is practically gathered. I shall begin writing in September."² Dreiser’s newsy, straightforward remark to Mencken actually disguises an unresolved and perhaps unacknowledged dilemma. He wished to think of his novel as a single book, yet his research had so far included only general accounts of Yerkes's...

    • The Titan
      (pp. 183-200)

      Dreiser’s original schedule for the Cowperwood trilogy, as outlined in a letter to Mencken in May 1912, called for publication of volume one in August 1912, volume two in March 1913, and volume three in August 1913.¹ His delay in completing volume one disrupted this plan, and it was not until November 1912, shortly after the appearance ofThe Financier, that he began the extensive research necessary for volume two,The Titan. He began in New York by gathering information about Yerkes’s New York mansion and art collection.² In mid-December he left for Chicago and spent almost two months making...


    • An American Tragedy
      (pp. 203-290)

      For more than a decade after the publication ofAn American Tragedyin late 1925, Dreiser often explained in letters, articles, and interviews that his purpose in writing the novel had not been to exploit the fictional possibilities of a particular sensational crime but rather to express an archetypal American dilemma.¹ From youth, Dreiser recalled, he had been absorbed by magazine stories in which a working girl marries a wealthy young man or in which a poor young man marries well and thereby achieves prominence and luxury. In these versions of the American myth of success, marriage is a step...


    • The Years Between
      (pp. 293-298)

      Twenty - one years elapsed between the publication ofAn American Tragedyand the appearance ofThe Bulwark. During this period Dreiser was deeply involved in the preparation of a vast philosophical work and in various movements devoted to the achievement of greater social justice. Although it is not my task to describe fully his writing and activities of this phase of his career,¹ it is necessary to summarize the direction of his thought, since bothThe BulwarkandThe Stoicwere heavily influenced by the cast of his ideas during these two decades. It might be best to begin...

    • The Bulwark
      (pp. 299-331)

      Dreiser began work onThe Bulwarkin the fall of 1914 and completed the novel in May 1945.¹ Because the history of the composition ofThe Bulwarkextends over thirty years and comprises some fifteen boxes of manuscript, it might be best to begin with two general observations about the genesis of the book before pursuing the subject in greater detail. First, Dreiser’s work on the novel divides into two distinct phases, from 1914 to 1920 and from 1942 to 1945, though there were also many stops and starts within these phases. Second, his conception of the setting, plot, and...

    • The Stoic
      (pp. 332-348)

      Although drekiser’s plan in early 1912 was to write and publish the three volumes of the Cowperwood trilogy at six-month intervals,¹ by the timeThe Titanappeared in early 1914 he had grown disheartened with the project. The preparation and writing of the first two volumes had taken more time than he had expected. He was anxious to pursue such new and more compelling interests asThe Bulwark, his autobiographies, and a series of plays. In addition, the financial failure of the first two volumes and his difficulties with Harper’s over publication ofThe Titanhad tempered his earlier desire...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 349-372)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 375-382)