№11 2021

УДК / UDK: 821.111

Author: Jude Davies
About the author:

Jude Davies, PhD, Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Winchester, Sparkford Rd., Winchester SO22 4NR, United Kingdom.


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Theodore Dreiser published over fifty items of literary criticism between 1900 and 1945 on a wide variety of subjects, while additional discussion of literary matters is scattered through his correspondence, memoirs, unpublished speeches, and cultural and philosophical essays. Hitherto this work has proved useful piecemeal, in its illumination of Dreiser’s fiction, while a few outstanding pieces have served to define Dreiser’s version of realism or literary naturalism. This essay takes the literary criticism seriously as a body of work in itself, sketching out some categories and topics, and providing detailed historical contexts for several items, which reveal under-appreciated nuances and engagements in even better-known pieces such as “True Art speaks Plainly” and “Life, Art and America.” The essay sees coherence across the diverse foci of Dreiser’s literary criticism via the concept of the “occasions of literary criticism,” by which is meant the historical and cultural contexts into which he was writing. It charts the roots of Dreiser’s literary criticism in his need to respond to charges of “literary immorality,” its growth through his very particular response to censorship, and its maturity in his suggestion, in a speech given as part of the peace conference in Paris in 1938, of an American literary tradition dedicated to social justice, taking in Mark Twain and H. D. Thoreau as well as the expected cohort of realists and naturalists. The essay concludes by relating these contexts and preoccupations to the history and practice of the Theodore Dreiser Edition.

Keywords: Theodore Dreiser Edition, modernism, literary naturalism, Theodore Dreiser, textual editions, literary criticism, censorship, American literature.
For citation:

Davies, Jude. “The Occasions of Theodore Dreiser’s Literary Criticism: A View from the Theodore Dreiser Edition.” Literature of the Americas, no. 11 (2021): 271–288. 


Davies 2016 — Davies, Jude. “Method and Judgment in the Theodore Dreiser Edition: From Sister Carrie to The Titan.” Scholarly Editing: The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing 37 (2016): 1 –18.

Davies, Riggio 2016 — Davies, Jude, and Thomas P. Riggio. “Editorial Procedures.” In The Titan, by Theodore Dreiser, edited by Roark Mulligan, i –xviii. Winchester: Winchester University Press, 2016.

Dreiser 2011 — Dreiser, Theodore. Political Writings. Edited by Jude Davies. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.

Dudley 1933 — Dudley, Dorothy. Dreiser and the Land of the Free: A Novel of Facts. London: Wishart, 1933.

Epstein 1991 — Epstein, Joseph. Partial Payments: Essays on Writers and Their Lives. New York: Norton, 1991.

Faulkner 1995 — Faulkner, W. Faulkner in the University. Edited by Frederick L. Gwynn and Joseph L. Bonner. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995.

Murayama 2016 — Murayama, Kiyohiko. “Theodore Dreiser and the Modernists.” Studies in American Naturalism 11, no. 2 (Winter 2016): 38 –55.

West 2011 — West, James L. W. Making the Archives Talk: New and Selected Essays in Bibliography, Editing, and Book History. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011.