Daily Archives: December 28, 2010

Theodore Dreiser


Dreiser’s article “The Factory” (1910)

On this date in 1945 Theodore Dreiser died (born 1871).

Frye in “Design as a Creative Principle in the Arts”:

The tendency of of contemporary poets, and many novelists and dramatists as well, to be attracted toward myth and metaphor, rather than toward a realistic emphasis on content, is thus a cultural tendency parallel to the emphasis on abstract design in the visual arts.  It exhibits also the same paradox, or seeming paradox: it is usually a highly sophisticated, even erudite and academic, approach to the art, yet the features of the art which are most interesting to it are primitive and popular features.  Dylan Thomas seems more complex and and baffling than Theodore Dreiser, yet it is easier for me to imagine Dylan Thomas genuinely popular than to imagine Dreiser, for all his obvious and considerable merits, genuinely popular.  This is not to suggest a preference between two utterly incomparable things, but to suggest that writers who concentrate on literary design rather than content, despite their superficial difficulties, are the writers most likely to reach the widest public most quickly.  The principles of literary design are also the readiest means by which literature can be effectively taught, at any level from kindergarten to graduate school.  And as myth and metaphor are habits of mind and not merely artificial devices, such teaching should lead us, not simply to admire works of literature more, but to transfer something something of their imaginative energy to our own lives.  It is that transfer of imaginative energy which is the aim of all education in the arts, and to the possibility of which the arts themselves bear witness.  (CW 27, 236-7)