In 1898, Dreiser began his first novel, Sister Carrie (1900), with the encouragement of his wife, Sara Osborne White, and his novelist friend, Arthur Henry.Dreiser based his novel in part on his sister Emma’s relationship with a married man.The article explores both the full dimensions of the debate during the 1880s and 1890s by a wide variety of American critics and Dreiser's pithy recapitulation of its essential character.
The comprehensive studies of Gerber 1992, Lehan 1969, and Pizer 1976 provide good introductions to Dreiser’s works, with discussion and analysis of each novel.
Pizer 1976 includes significant reference to archival materials.
When Dreiser attempted to go on to a second novel, Jennie Gerhardt, he found himself blocked, a condition which he attributed in part to the reception of Sister Carrie.
The significance of "True Art Speaks Plainly" lies in Dreiser' ability to draw upon the critical energy stimulated by his personal pique to engage the principal social and ethical issues present in twenty years of American discussion of realism and naturalism.
Abstract Theodore Dreiser's brief but significant 1903 essay "True Art Speaks Plainly" draws upon the central issues present in over twenty years of debate in America on the social and ethical nature of realism and naturalism.
In particular, Dreiser responds to the distaste and the fear of change underlying a distrust of realism and naturalism and to the conventional religiosity underlying a refusal to countenance the depiction of man's sexual nature.
The critical debate from the mid-1870s to the outbreak of World War I over the nature and value of realism and naturalism seldom included discussion of the formal characteristics of these modes of expression) Nor were critics who participated in the debate able to achieve the distance evident in Rene Wellek's 1963 definition of realism as "the objective representation of contemporary social reality," (4) in which the terms "objective" and "social reality" are of course problematical but suggest nevertheless that Wellek is seeking a neutral terrain of critical discourse.
You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website.
Dreiser also became more involved in political issues during his later years and joined the Communist Party shortly before his death.
Although Dreiser is criticized for his cumbersome style, his compelling characters and narratives continue to fascinate readers, and his importance to early 20th-century American literature is undeniable.