Dreiser, Theodore. (1871 - 1945).
L i f e
- son of German immigrants: his father a religious fanatic, his mother kind but illiterate
- grew up poor and unhappy
- sought journalism as an escape from his childhood
- worked with regional newspapers, moved first to New York, then to Chicago
W o r k
- associated with the Chicago School of Realism and with the Chicago Renaissance
< drew on his own difficult childhood and knowledge of the street life
< inspired by the contemporary figures whose stories were played out in the newspapers
< influenced by C. Darwin’s and T. Huxley’s evolutionary theories of scientific and social determinism
- concerned with the indifferent universe x but: sympathetic to his characters
=> made money, sex, and power the major themes of the 20th century literature
Sister Carrie (1900):
- based on the elopement of one of his sisters and on the newspaper reports on the embezzlement of company funds
- concern: a young country girl leaves for Chicago to realize her American Dream first by becoming a mistress of rich men, then a famous actress
- made Carrie Meeber x George Hurstwood pass one another along the lines of their ascent x descent
- combined naturalism and expressionism
- received little attention x but: reissued (1907), won him the deserved attention, and influenced the turn of literature
Jennie Gerhardt (1911):
- based on his sister’s experience as a rich man’s mistress
“The Cowperwood Trilogy”:
> The Financier (1912)
> The Titan (1914)
> The Stoic (1947)
- dramatised the methods used by ruthless entrepreneurs to take control of the American system
- based on the character of an actual Chicago streetcar tycoon
An American Tragedy (1925):
- based on an actual murder trial
- the protagonist sentenced to death for the murder of one girl because of his longing for another and richer girl
- exploited both the foolish dream of upward mobility and the foolish desire for perfect love
(Photo: Carl Van Vechten. 1933. Source: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorTheodore (Herman Albert) Dreiser. (1871 - 1945). American.
WorkNovelist. Journalist. Author of Sister Carrie (1900).
GenresRealism. Naturalism. Chicago Renaissance.
Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.
Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.
Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.
McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.
Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.
Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.
"When a girls leaves her home at eighteen, she does one of two things. Either she falls into saving hands and becomes better, or she rapidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and becomes worse. Of an intermediate balance, under the circumstances, there is no possibility".
From Sister Carrie (1900).