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The Trouble with Dreiser: Harper and the Editing of Jennie Gerhardt By Annemarie Koni ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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The Trouble with Dreiser:


Dreiser and the Restoration
of Jennie Gerhardt

In his poem “Theodore Dreiser,” Edgar Lee Masters compares Dreiser to a jack-o-lantern because his mouth droops and his eyes are “fixed” and “scarcely sparkling.” Underneath his unassuming facade, however, was a mind that could understand deeply and see clearly, a mind that contemplated life as it was and wrote stories so profoundly true that it was as if the reader were sitting “before the sphinx” (37). Although there have always been those like Masters who have appreciated Dreiser's genius, his recognition by the literary community has not always been solid. Although An American Tragedy, published in 1925, was a best seller and was eventually made into a movie in 1931, Dreiser, by the time of his death in 1945, had dropped into relative obscurity. In the last forty years, however, scholars have reexamined his work, acknowledged his literary accomplishments, and have assured his place in the pantheon of great American writers. Critics, however, have generally considered Jennie Gerhardt to be his least satisfactory work. The probable reason for this