Cinematic Mirages of Theodor Dreiser
- УДК / UDK: 821.111:791.31
- Author: Olga Yu. Antsyferova
- About the author:
Olga Yu. Antsyferova, Doctor Hab. in Philology, Professor, St. Petersburg State University, Universitetskaya Embankment 7–9, 199034 St. Petersburg, Russia.
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1219-0134
The article examines the history of cinematic versions (film adaptations) of T. Dreiserʼs novel An American Tragedy, the key concept of the analysis being that of a mirage (phantasm). It is the unattainable and unconscious desire for the mirage of wealth and luxury that guides Clyde Griffiths in the novel (not accidentally one of its early titles was “Mirage”). The plotline of Dreiser’s attempts to film the novel during his lifetime is marked by the same illusory, fantasmatic character: the script by Sergei Eisenstein, approved by the author, was rejected by Hollywood, the movie by Joseph von Sternberg, who eliminated sociological motives, was not accepted by Dreiser who tried to sue Paramount but lost the trial. George Stevensʼ post-war film adaptation of the novel titled A Place in the Sun, where the action was transferred into the early 1950s with their less rigid class stratification, became a tragic story about love and protagonist’s desire to dissolve into cinematic fantasy. A Place in the Sun was to become a cult film both among the intellectuals (Jean- Luc Godard) and among the mass media audience, the embodiment of which can be seen in the main character of the novel by S. Erickson Zeroville and of the eponymous movie by J. Franco. The history of the relationship between Dreiserʼs text and cinema can be perceived as a hypostasis of Roland Barthesʼ “death of the author”: appropriating a well-documented text of a real-historical author, cinema gradually and increasingly turns it into a space of intertextual play, from which the real author is eliminated and becomes a “mirage”, visible only to readers familiar with Dreiserʼs novel.
- Keywords: Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy, S.М. Eisenstein, J. Sternberg, George Stevens, A Place in the Sun, film adaptations, mirage/phantasm.
- For citation:
Antsyferova, Olga. “Cinematic Mirages of Theodore Dreiser.” Literature of the Americas, no. 11 (2021): 248–270. https://doi.org/10.22455/2541-7894-2021-11-248-270
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