Thomas Kranidas, “The Materials of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy”

 

 

Thomas Kranidas, ‘The Materials of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy’

 

 

A while ago, I was contemplating writing an article on the sources of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. In my research, I came across a master’s thesis which was listed in Pizer, Dowell, and Rusch’s Dreiser bibliography.

I decided to look the thesis up because it was at Columbia University (accessible to me, since I live in New York City) and because the title intrigued me. It was by Thomas Kranidas and is entitled “The Materials of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy” (Master’s thesis, Columbia University, 1953, 94 pp.).

I read the thesis at Columbia. It wasn’t really an investigation of the sources of An American Tragedy, but it was mainly focused on that novel. It included consideration to a limited extent of other works of Dreiser — e.g., his poetry and essays — that pertained to the author’s argument.

This thesis is, in my opinion, excellent — very penetrating. It is one of the best analyses I have ever read of Dreiser as a writer and muddled thinker, and someone with pretensions to intellectual and social stature that can be detected in his writings. It is for the most part critical of Dreiser, but I think it is one of the best analyses of him I have ever read. It gets under Dreiser’s skin and “nails” him.  Nonetheless, the author, Thomas Kranidas, is appreciative of the strengths of An American Tragedy.

The thesis is here made available for the first time. It is posted above as a downloadable PDF file.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   April 2017

 

 

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email from Roger W. Smith to Thomas Kranidas, April 25, 2017

 

 

Dear Professor Kranidas,

Following up on our conversation today, a few thoughts about your master’s thesis.

I read it at Butler Library. It is available nowhere else, I believe. (It was not available and was irretrievable until I copied and scanned it and posted in on my Dreiser site.)

My basic reaction, gut feeling was that (1) it was an M.A. thesis, not a dissertation; (2) it was not based on exhaustive research into the sources of An American Tragedy (which was not your objective).

Neverthless, I felt that it was one of the best statements I have read about Dreiser qua writer; Dreiser the self-styled “philosopher”; and Dreiser the social climber who yearned for what he professed to disdain.

You “nailed” him … got under his skin. Analyzed, penetratingly, his weaknesses as a writer and the shortcomings of his worldview … his pretensions, his myopia when it came to writing about the privileged classes.

While at the same time appreciating his strengths, and steering clear of a hatchet job.

inventory of Dreiserana (Dreiser books and materials) in Roger W. Smith’s private library

 

 

 

Below is a downloadable Word document which contains an inventory of Dreiserana — books and other materials by, about, and related to Theodore Dreiser — in my personal library.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    April 2017

 

 

 

Continue reading inventory of Dreiserana (Dreiser books and materials) in Roger W. Smith’s private library

Dreiser’s Trilogy of Desire: “Reading for the Age of Trump”

 

 

To the Editor:

 

Several articles and letters in the Book Review have addressed dystopian literature and the Trump administration. To these titles I would add Theodore Dreiser’s Trilogy of Desire (“The Financier,” “The Titan” and “The Stoic”). These novels are based on the life of the robber baron Charles Yerkes.

The ruthless doings and outrageous behavior of the fictional Frank Cowperwood not only shed light on Trump but on the members of his billionaire cabinet as well. It’s a shame Dreiser’s works are largely unread today, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.

 

 

Mark Kisselbach

Phillipsburg, N.J.

The New York Times Book Review, March 12, 2017

Roger W. Smith, “The Real Julia Hurstwood and the Lutz Murder Case”

 

 

Note – the Word document below containing the article by Roger W. Smith on which this post is based has been updated as of March 16, 2017 with some new content based upon news accounts appearing in Chicago newspapers in February 1886.

 

 

Theodore Dreiser drew heavily on real life incidents in writing his first novel, Sister Carrie. The main persons behind the story were his sister Emma and her lover, Lorenzo A. Hopkins.

I have done some investigating attempting to dig out more facts about Emma, about Hopkins, and about their relationship and children. There is much confusion despite what scholars have already managed to uncover. Dreiser himself gave sketchy accounts in his autobiographical writings.

I was aware that Hopkins’s wife, before he became involved with Emma Dreiser, was named Margaret and that they had one child, a daughter named Maria, who around 18 years old when Hopkins stole money from his employer in Chicago and absconded with Emma.

There was a Margaret Lutz, a married woman who seemed to be right age as Hopkins’s wife, who was murdered in 1900 — 14 years after her husband absconded — by her brother-in-law and who was, at the time, living just down the street (on the same block) from where she and Hopkins were living. Could this be the same woman as Margaret Hopkins, who had remarried a man surnamed Lutz?

It turned out that it indeed was. The key to proving this was that I recently found records of Margaret Hopkins’s divorce from her first husband, Lorenzo Hopkins, and her marriage to Alfred Lutz around eight years before she was murdered.

Attached below as a downloadable Word document is a new article of mine about the case and its relationship to the portrayal of Hurstwood and his wife Julia in Sister Carrie.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     March 2017

 

 

‘The Real Julia Hurstwood and the Lutz Murder Case

 

 

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Addendum:

 

Also posted here below as a downloadable PDF document is a brief genealogical report for Margaret (Menkler Hopkins) Lutz.

 

 

descendants-of-margaret-menkler

 

 

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See also:

 

“Lorenzo A. Hopkins (the real George Hurstwood)”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/lorenzo-a-hopkins-the-real-george-hurstwood/

Lorenzo A. Hopkins (the real George Hurstwood)

 

 

Please note.

 

This post partially reiterates and also amplifies upon material in a previous post of mine, namely: “Lorenzo A. Hopkins, Emma Wilhelmina Dreiser, and Family”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/roger-w-smith-lorenzo-a-hopkins-emma-wilhelmina-dreiser-and-family/

 

 

 

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‘Lorenzo A. Hopkins, the real George Hurstwood’

 

 

Above is a downloadable Word document containing an article about Lorenzo A. Hopkins (1847-1897), who was the real life model for the character of George Hurstwood in Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie. The article includes newly discovered factual information about Hopkins, including his death, information about which has not hitherto been found. It is a significant matter to investigate since, in real life, Hopkins, the model for Hurstwood, was left by his lover Emma Wilhelmina Dreiser (Dreiser’s sister), leading to the decline and death of Hurstwood, which concludes the novel.

Also provided here (see below) are images of Lorenzo A. Hopkins’s gravestone and his death certificate.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

       February 2017

 

 

See also:

“The Real Julia Hurstwood and the Lutz Murder Case”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/the-real-julia-hurstwood-and-the-lutz-murder-case/

 

 

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Lorenzo A. Hopkins death certificate

 

 

 

Lorenzo A. Hopkins gravestone (photograph by Roger W. Smith)

lorenzo-a-hopkins-gravestone-mt-olivet-cemetry-maspeth-queens-ny-roger

 

 

 

 

Mt. Olivet Cemetery 9-19 a.m. 11-24-2016.JPG

excerpts from the autobiography of Harold James Dies

 

 

Posted here below as a downloadable PDF document are excerpts from the autobiography of Harold James Dies (1914-2012). Mr. Dies was related, on his mother’s side, to Theodore Dreiser’s second wife, Helen (Patges) (Richardson) Dreiser. He was Trustee of the Dreiser Trust.

The full title of the autobiography is “The Kingdom of God and the World’s Final Generation: The Life Story of Harold James Dies” (2010).

Included in the autobiography is anecdotal material related to Theodore Dreiser and his second wife Helen, as well as some information about Dreiser’s niece Gertrude Amelia Hopkins (1894-1963) that is not available elsewhere. Topics of interest discussed in the autobiography, and included in the excerpts posted below, include:

Mr. Dies’s relationship with Dreiser’s second wife Helen, whom he knew from his early years, and biographical information about her

his meeting Dreiser and some anecdotal material about Dreiser

mention of his cousin congressman Martin Dies, chairman of the House un-American Activities Committee

his relationship with Gertrude Amelia Hopkins, Dreiser’s favorite niece and the daughter of Dreiser’s sister Emma (“Sister Carrie”)

negotiations over the production of Tobias Picker’s opera “An American Tragedy”

I wish to thank Joann Crouch, Mr. Dies’s niece, who told me about this unique book and made it available to me for photocopying.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

      February 2017

 

 

 

the-life-story-of-harold-james-dies-excerpts