Introduction The main topic of the article is the Western metaphilosophy of the last hundred years or so.
From the appearance of Sister Carrie to the present, an opportunity to examine Dreiser also has meant an opportunity to press the claims of a particular view of American life and thus a specific concept about the nature of fiction. The literary scene which Dreiser entered in with the publication of Sister Carrie was still largely controlled by the conventions of what was later to be designated as An american tragedy critical essays Genteel Tradition.
The commonplace and sordid in human existence played little role within this aim, while felicities of style, which constituted the "art" of the work, were held to be inseparable from ethical power. Sister Carrie constituted a direct challenge to these assumptions.
While some reviewers did indeed note its "extraordinary power" and that its story "has all the interest of fact, and the terrible inevitableness of fact," most seized upon the central situation of the novel--that of a young girl who has two illicit sexual relationships without suffering either material loss or moral degeneration--as immediate grounds for dismissal of the novel.
In short, the novel was neither uplifting nor well-written, and was thus "Not a book to be put into the hands of every reader indiscriminately. After a long hiatus, Dreiser reappeared fully on the literary scene in with Jennie Gerhardt.
It was also a period in which, to use the loaded terminology of the age, the conflict between the forces of American "puritanism" and the ideal of "artistic freedom" reached a fever pitch. But when this novel was quickly followed by The FinancierThe Titanand The "Genius"--three works whose male protagonists defy all conventions of acceptable sexual behavior --the die was cast.
Mencken, and Randolph Bourne were not merely engaged in the praise of novels which had moved them.
They were also seeking to cast Dreiser in the symbolic role of the trailblazer whose willingness to challenge the conventional beliefs and genteel codes of American life has opened a way for others.
If his work appeared to lack beauty, it was because the concept of beauty had degenerated into a belief in mere surface grace and polish. And if his ideas were often tedious or obscure, it was because he was fumbling honestly for truths which others had so long refused to acknowledge.
To those who opposed Dreiser--and these included the great majority of journalistic reviewers and most academic critics--he issue was joined on the question of "brutality"--or, more specifically, the amorality and sexuality of the first two volumes of the Cowperwood trilogy and The "Genius.
Men may often be selfish and brutal, Sherman and other New Humanists agreed, but they also held that civilization represented an effort to control these remnants of our animal past through reason and will, and that literature should depict the desirability and possibility of achieving this goal.
Although Dreiser by the mids was grudgingly acknowledged, largely as a result of the weight and persistency of his publications, to be a major figure in American letters, he was still often denied full stature because of his suspect themes and awkward fictional expression.
But for almost all readers, including many previous detractors, An American Tragedy was in an oft-repeated term a "great" novel. The novel was both a critical and popular success; a Broadway adaptation was also successful; and Dreiser was frequently mentioned in connection with the Nobel Prize in literature.
By the mids, with the near-universal applause for An American Tragedy and the critical acceptance of writers far more sensationally explicit than Dreiser in their material and themes, it appeared that his struggle for recognition had been won.
But instead he became during this and the following decade the negative focus of two additional critical movements with widespread cultural significance. Although critics such as Alfred Kazin and F. Matthiessen continued to praise him for having achieved a powerful blend of social realism and pathos, it became more common to attack Dreiser, as did Lionel Trilling in his well-known essay "Reality in America," both for his idea of reality and for his mode of depicting it.
Dreiser was perhaps the principal example of a major American literary figure of this kind. When Dreiser died not only an unrepentant camp follower but also an actual party member in a symbolic act, he had joined the party the year of his deathhe became a prime target for those critics who had themselves been party sympathizers during the early s but who had rejected its leadership and ideology as the decade progressed.
Thus, with Dreiser in disfavor as both thinker and artist--to say nothing of the confusion created by the mystic element in his two posthumous novels, The Bulwark and The Stoic --it was no wonder that during the s and s, as Irving Howe recalls, his work was "a symbol of everything a superior intelligence was supposed to avoid.
A number of scholars--for example, Ellen Moers, Richard Lehan, Philip Gerber, and Donald Pizer--have written full-length studies of Dreiser which are based in large part upon material in the Dreiser Papers.
By the mids, some of the older strains in Dreiser criticism had died out. No longer was it necessary to defend or attack his subjects or ideas because of their challenge to contemporary conventions. The question appears simple, and many early critics treated it as such.
Naturalism, which had its origin in the theories and fiction of the late nineteenth-century French novelist Emile Zola, was a Darwinian-based pessimistic determinism in theme and a crude massiveness in technique, and Dreiser was a prime example of both.
Although such recent critics as Charles Walcutt, Donald Pizer, June Howard, John Conder, Lee Clark Mitchell, and Michael Davitt Bell still engage the problems of defining American naturalism and explaining Dreiser as our principal naturalist, they now incline toward an acceptance of the complexities and ambivalences of both the movement and Dreiser.
Dreiser criticism is also still often concerned with the related issue of his verbal and fictional ineptness. Much Dreiser criticism since the mids, however, has focused less on the themes and quality of his fiction than on the question of the relationship of his thought and work to large-scale social and cultural issues arising out of our condition as an urban society and consumerist economy, issues which still preoccupy us as a nation.
Several studies of this kind attempt to open up new areas of interest in Dreiser by tracing the underlying significance in his fiction of such major cultural realities of his day as mass communication Thomas F. Strychacza faith in science Louis J.
Zanineand class values and practices Clare Eby. Thus, for example, Rachel Bowlby examines the institution of the department store in Sister Carrie as a microcosm of the urban consumerism which engulfs Carrie in Chicago, while Philip Fisher studies the ways in which the "hard fact" of the urban impersonality of Chicago and New York is reflected in the failure of identity in Hurstwood and Carrie.
My Life with Dreiser. Cornell University Press, Letters of Theodore Dreiser.
University of Pennsylvania Press, At the Gates of the City, Putnam, ; Theodore Dreiser: An American Journey, Dreiser's need to struggle for acceptance of his work on its own grounds, however, was to continue until the great success of An American Tragedy in After a long hiatus, Dreiser reappeared fully on the literary scene in with Jennie Gerhardt.
The decade of the s was the most prolific of Dreiser's career, with the publication of four major novels and the appearance of a number of other works in . An American Tragedy Summary. A driven but immature young man by the name of Clyde Griffiths hopes to escape from the world of poverty and devout religion established by his parents, who are street missionaries in Kansas City, Missouri.
One of four children, Clyde’s entire family has moved from place to place promoting the Gospel for years. torosgazete.com provides links and source material related to The Souls of Black Folk written by the African American activist, writer, and scholar: William Edward Burghardt DuBois.
The research is conducted and arranged by Dr. Robert torosgazete.comms. T LIT Understanding Literature (5) VLPA Develops essential tools for close and informed reading of fiction, drama, and poetry. Considers how a text generates aesthetic pleasure, how it achieves moral or social impact.
Develops skills in literary analysis through reading literary texts, through. An American Tragedy was published in December , and issued in two torosgazete.comr created a poignant yet powerful novel of youthful loneliness in industrial society and of the American mirage that beckons some of the young to disaster.
His best known work is An American Tragedy which shows a young man trying to succeed in a materialistic society. --from PAL: Dreiser Assignment: Write a 1 1/2 to page essay in which you articulate and support what you believe to be Dreiser's contribution to American literature with his novel An American Tragedy.