資料彙整   /   作家  /  Theodore  Dreiser  希歐多爾•德萊瑟
Theodore  Dreiser
希歐多爾•德萊瑟
圖片來源:http://www.indstate.edu/archives/Buildings/BuildingNames(people)/Dreiser,Theodore.htm
主要文類:Novel
資料提供者:Evelyn; Kate Liu
關鍵字詞:Novelist; journalist; editor

Theodore (Herman Albert) Dreiser

希歐多爾•德萊瑟

1871-1945

小說家、記者、編輯

Evelyn Sung/宋怡緻

 家庭背景

 錯縱複雜的感情生活

 記者、編輯生涯

 作家生涯

 寫作風格

 

 家庭背景

    希歐多爾•德萊瑟於一八七一年八月二十七日誕生於印第安那州的堤爾荷特市。其父約翰•保羅•德萊瑟為信仰天主教的德國移民,於一八四四年來到美國。其母莎拉•史安娜為捷克的孟諾派教徒,一八五一年嫁給約翰•德萊瑟後改信天主教。約翰•德萊瑟是一個毛線工人,家庭生活還算富足。直到六個孩子的相繼出生,和一場未投保的毛線坊大火所造成的嚴重損失,德萊瑟一家陷入了無止盡的貧窮,且居無定所。唐納德•派哲爾 指出,「那是一個社會最低階層的家庭,貧窮、龐大、無知而迷信。」貧窮雖然剝奪了德萊瑟接觸書本的機會(許多作者不是大學畢業生就是在成長過程中仍有自我學習的機會),卻也為他日後的小說創作提供了許多靈感,尤其是關於家庭生活的描寫部份 — 溫暖、寬容、慈愛的母親,心地狹窄而嚴厲的父親,貪玩而任性的子女 — 建構了德萊瑟小說中家庭的形象。

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 錯縱複雜的感情生活

    大致上來說,德萊瑟的感情生活十分豐富。除了有過兩次婚姻 以外,期間的空窗期 ,感情生活也絲毫不間斷。德萊瑟的首任妻子名叫莎拉•懷特,是來自密蘇里州的一名認真教員。雖然他和莎拉是真心相愛,但由於莎拉深深信奉道德主義的教條,在他們訂婚的六年之間,從不讓德萊瑟有逾舉的機會。他和莎拉交往過程中產生的許多矛盾,成了他小說中那些爭議點的依據。導致德萊瑟首次婚姻產生裂痕的,是他和一位編輯的 17 歲女兒,黛瑪•庫利普,所傳出的緋聞。德萊瑟在10年代與莎拉正式分居,搬往格林威治村。在格林威治村居住 期間,仍談了幾段感情。德萊瑟這種生活中無法沒有女人的怪癖直到遇見了他那年輕而極具吸引力的表妹,海倫•佩格•理察德森,才有所收斂。海倫之後成了德萊瑟的第二任妻子,兩人相伴終老。有一說法指出,海倫對唯心論 的興趣,影響了德萊瑟晚期的作品,如:The Stoic (1947) 和The Bulwark (1945),都著重生活中精神層面的描寫。

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 記者、編輯生涯

    德萊瑟在學時期表現並不亮眼,但仍頗受少數幾位老師喜愛。雖因家庭貧困,德萊瑟常隨著家人四處遷徙,但在一位老師的幫助下,德萊瑟獲得了一年在印地安那大學唸書的機會。一年的大學生活拓展了他的視野,使他為自己立下了更高的志向。他勤奮工作,成為 Daily G loble 的編輯。當時,德萊瑟的哥哥保羅已是娛樂圈頗受歡迎的流行歌曲作者和舞台明星,德萊瑟因此說服他哥哥和另外兩位作曲者讓他編輯一份雜誌,藉此替他們擴大作品的市場。這本雜誌名為 Ev'ry Month ,其內容包含通俗詩、短篇小說、散文、歌曲、一些文學篇章、和德萊瑟自己撰寫的、主題較嚴肅的文章。一八九七年,德萊瑟將 Ev'ry Month 停刊,轉而從事其他雜誌的編輯工作。期間德萊瑟訪問了湯瑪斯•愛迪生、安德魯•卡內基、威廉•迪恩•霍爾威斯、馬紹爾•費爾德、和其他名人,並於雜誌上介紹這些名人的奮鬥史。這段工作 期間,德萊瑟首度賺進一筆錢。之後的十餘年,德萊瑟在編輯工作上平步青雲,並於一九一O年成為薪水最為優渥的編輯之ㄧ,同年德萊瑟便與黛瑪•庫利普傳出緋聞。

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 作家生涯

1. <嘉莉妹妹>的受挫

    德萊瑟於一八九九年開始從事小說創作。他的第一本小說 <嘉莉妹妹>是依妹妹愛瑪的經驗寫成。愛瑪和有婦之夫墜入情網,在偷了任職公司保險箱的錢之後,這個男人帶著愛瑪一起逃往加拿大。德萊瑟於四個月內便寫成了<嘉莉妹妹>。雖然本書的完成有賴於妻子創作期間為他修改文法,以及其他文學界朋友對文本的稍作潤飾,<嘉莉妹妹>在角色塑造、主題呈現上的深度,仍充分顯示了德萊瑟成為文學大家的 天份 。然而,由於德萊瑟於此書的結尾並未讓善與惡得到應有的獎賞與懲治,<嘉莉妹妹>的出版幾乎受到出版商 Doubleday Page 的拒絕。<嘉莉妹妹>的出版因此成了美國文學史上一件十分著名的事件。日後,德萊瑟被視作是反抗清教徒價值標準的代表,而曾壓制過他作品出版的出版商,則象徵美國社會中清教徒價值觀對人的宰制。

 

2. 寫作生涯的中斷與再開始

    <嘉莉妹妹>因缺乏宣傳而銷售不佳,德萊瑟因此大受打擊,陷入了極度的憂鬱,潦倒的住在布魯克林的貧民窟中,並在街上找尋食物維生。直到有一天他在街上巧遇哥哥保羅,被送進了療養院。療養院的修養使他回復昔日的健康,加上<嘉莉妹妹>於一九O七年的再版,獲得了較佳的回響,德萊瑟因此著手創作他的第二本小說 Jennie Gerhard ,描述一個母性強烈、願意奉獻付出的 沉 淪女子。

一九一一年到一九二五年,是德萊瑟致力於寫作的時期,期間他共完成了四部長篇小說 The " Geniu ,"(1915), The Financier <金融家> (1912), The Titan <巨人> (1914),和 An American Tragedy <人間悲劇> (1925),另有旅遊記事、自傳、戲劇、短篇小說、人物速寫、哲學性小品等文體。一九三 O 年的諾貝爾文學獎角逐,是德萊瑟此生距離重要文學大獎最近的一刻。雖然最後第一名讓給了辛克萊•路易士而僅居亞軍,路易士在他獲獎感言中表示:「儘管不被欣賞、不被喜愛,德萊瑟堅持自己的風格,以無畏與熱情,取代了美國小說中維多利亞和霍爾威斯風格的含蓄與高雅,赤裸裸的展現生命的風貌。 捨 德萊瑟,還有誰能如此無畏無懼的詮釋生命、美與恐懼。」

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 寫作風格

1. 赫伯特•史賓賽和巴爾札克的影響

    德萊瑟對生命的看法深受赫伯特•史賓賽和巴爾札克的影響。一八九四年,德萊瑟為Dispatch寫每日專欄,於匹茲堡居住了半年。撰寫專欄的工作並未佔去他太多時間,德萊瑟因此常利用寫專欄之外的餘裕,勤跑公共圖書館,閱讀大量書籍。德萊瑟於這段時間迷上了史賓賽和巴爾札克的哲學著作。派哲爾表示,「史賓賽主張真正的力量不是來自空泛且約定俗成的道德規範,而是源自於個人於社會或大自然中,為生存所做的努力與掙扎,史賓塞認為這種為生存所做的努力與掙扎,是十分有助益的。而巴爾札克的小說更是印證了德萊瑟的信念 — 在都市中追尋夢想者所經歷的,除了掙扎、墮落、毀滅,還有驚嘆、美麗、與成就。」在史賓賽和巴爾札克的作品中,德萊瑟找到了能與他過去幾年的生活經驗相呼應的精神。

 

2. 創作主題

    德萊瑟寫的多半是由貧致富的故事,且常將任職記者時接觸過的議題,如犯罪、疾病、妓女、流浪漢、巨富不為人知的一面等,當作創作的素材。他雖不是當代第一個將貧窮作為創作主題的小說家,卻是第一個親身經歷過貧窮與城市的殘酷的小說家。正因為親身經歷過,德萊瑟總能精準的呈現出時代轉型造成的社會變動。舉凡從鄉村到城市的移民潮,都市中冷冰冰而無人情味的工廠、出租套房、百貨公司,貧富對比,炫耀式消費的新文化,還有人們處於這種時代中那種想脫離貧窮、擁有財富的強烈渴望,皆在他的作品中呈現的淋漓盡致。此外,德萊瑟在創作時也不改其記者本色的融入周邊或自身的真實人生經驗。<嘉莉妹妹>是根據他自己親妹妹的故事寫成,<金融家>的創作是自當時的商業巨擘查爾斯•葉克斯的生活得到靈感,<人間悲劇>則是以轟動一時的契斯特•吉列謀殺案為背景。

 

3. 評論

    對德萊瑟的遣詞用字和創作主題的評論,一直是很兩極的。有些評論家批評德萊瑟的用字遣詞充滿了遁辭、倒裝、不明確的語彙和冗贅的文法,但有些評論家肯定德萊瑟的寫作,認為其文字的特色在於對事件詳盡而生動的記述。分歧的評論在探討德萊瑟的創作主題時,也常常出現。由於德萊瑟本身是物質決定論的支持者,且對「性」深感興趣,故他筆下的人物往往為自我私慾或社會壓力所支配,而非依循一種較高層次的道德感。也因此,德萊瑟的作品往往受到保守評論家的大力譴責,認為其創作違背了清教徒的價值觀。然而,如The Twentieth Century Novel: Studies in Technique 一書的作者,喬瑟夫•華倫•貝許所說:「正是因為德萊瑟誠實而無畏無懼的碰觸過去美國作家或有所保留,或不敢面對的議題,才使得他在美國文學史上有著不可輕忽的重要性。總要有勇者勇於用美國人自己的語言,紀錄美國人商業、社會生活中的真實,還有美國男女的性心理。」

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Theodore (Herman Albert) Dreiser

1871-1945

Novelist, journalist, editor

Evelyn Sung/宋怡緻

  Family Background

 Boy-girl Relationships

 Career as a journalist and editor

 Career as a novelist

 Writing Style


 

 Family Background   

Theodore Dreiser was born on August 27, 1871 in Terre Haute, Indiana. His father, John Paul Dreiser, was a Catholic German immigrant who came to America in 1844. His mother, Sarah Schänäb, was of Bohemian Mennonite background and later became a Catholic by marrying John Paul Dreiser in 1851. As a wool worker, John Dreiser gave the family a prosperous life for a time. However, after the births of six children and a fatal business loss caused by the burning of an uninsured woolen mill, the Dreisers went into a permanent condition of poverty and flight. According to Donald Pizer, "it was a family at the very bottom of social scale—poor, large, ignorant, and superstitious."  Poverty, on one hand, deprived Dreiser of an easy access to books (unlike other typical authors, many of whom were college graduates or had the chance of self-education when growing up), but on the other hand, it was poverty he experienced when growing up that supplied him with numerous themes to his novels, especially "the underlying configuration of his family--the warm, forgiving, and loving mother; the narrow-minded, disciplinarian father; and the fun-loving, wayward children"—which formed the fictional families in Dreiser's novels.

 

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 Boy-girl Relationships

Generally speaking, Dreiser's personal life was very active. He married twice and at the interval of these two marriages, incessant relationships with girls flavored Dreiser's personal life. Dreiser first married Sara White, a devoted schoolteacher from Missouri. His relationship with Sara dramatizes the central paradoxes of his novels mainly because they were in love, but Sara's moralism prevented their consummation of love through a six-year engagement. His first marriage primarily ended with his affair with Thelma Cudlipp, the 17-year-old daughter of an editor. Having separated from Sara in the 1910s, Dreiser moved to Greenwich Village, where he had a number of relationships. His "varietistics interests"(his term for his constant need for different women) were only arrested when he met an equally youthful and attractive cousin, Helen Patges Richardson, whom Dreiser lived together with for most of the remainder of his life. It is said that Helen's interest in spiritualism influenced Dreiser's last works such as The Stoic (1947) and The Bulwarkm (1945 ), which emphasized the spiritual side of life.

 

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 Career as a Journalist and Editor

Dreiser was not bright in school, but a few teachers did show serious liking to him. Although the Dreisers were so poor that they had to continuously move from one place to another, with the aid of a schoolteacher, Dreiser attended college at the University of Indiana for one year. His experiences in the college made his goal higher. He worked hard until he was taken as an editor at the Daily Globle. Dreiser also convinced her brother Paul, who had become a popular stage star and songwriter in the entertainment circle, and other two songwriters to let him edit a magazine, which would give their works a wider audience. Dreiser titled the magazine Ev'ry Month, and filled it with popular poetry, stories, essays, songs, some pieces of literary interest and many of his serious articles. He left his magazine in 1897 but found work on other magazines, for which he interviewed Thomas A. Edison, Andrew Carnegie, William Dean Howells, Marshall Field, and other celebrities, and wrote of their rise to success. For the first time he had money in life. He successfully continued his journalistic career for more than a dozen years and was one of the best-paid editors in 1910, when he was having an affair with Thelma Cudlipp.

 

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 Career as a Novelist

Suppression of Sister Carrie

Dreiser had begun experimenting fiction in 1899. His first important novel, Sister Carrie, was based on the experience of his sister, Emma, who had an affair with a married man and fled with him to Canada after he stole money from the safe of his company. Sister Carrie was finished in 4 months; although it was benefited by Sara's help in correcting the grammar and literary friends' aid in polishing the work, the depth of characterization and the novel's conceptions proved Dreiser's talent of being a literary master. However, Sister Carrie was almost refused to be published by Doubleday, Page because Dreiser failed to give vice and virtue appropriate rewards in the completion of the novel. The publication of Sister Carrie, therefore, became one of the famous incidents in American literary history. The publisher later was considered as the symbol of control dominated by puritan ethics in the American society, while Dreiser was elevated as a figure to fight with and persevere under the puritan values.

 

Suspension and Continuation of his Writing Career

Barely promoted, Sister Carrie did not sell well. Dreiser therefore sank into a deep depression, living poorly in the Brooklyn slum and scavenging food on the street, until he ran into his brother Paul, who sent him to a sanatorium. The sanatorium helped him recover mentally and physically. With a better result of the reprint of Sister Carrie in 1907, Dreiser continued writing his second novel, Jennie Gerhard, which portrayed a fallen woman as a giver, with the image and spirit of feminine plentitude as a mother.

From 1911 to 1925, Dreiser put all his energy into writing, composing four very long novels ( The "Genius," 1915; The Financier, 1912; The Titan, 1914; and An American Tragedy, 1925), works of travel narrative and autobiography, plays, short stories, sketches, and philosophical essays. During his lifetime, his most closet time in winning a major award in literature was the Nobel Prize in 1930 (he was the runner-up), though he finally lost it to Sinclair Lewis, who acknowledged Dreiser in his acceptance speech, "Dreiser more than any other man, marching alone, usually unappreciated, often hated, has cleared the trail from Victorian and Howellsian timidity and gentility in American fiction to honesty and boldness and passion of life. Without his pioneering, I doubt if any of us could, unless we liked to be sent to jail, seek to express life and beauty and terror."

 

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 Writing Style

Spencer's and Balzac's influence

Dreiser's conception of the nature of life was strongly influenced by Herbert Spencer and Honore de Balzac. In 1894, Dreiser stayed in Pittsburgh for half a year and wrote a daily column for the Dispatch. The newspaper work did not take much of his time in a day. Therefore, when he was free, he read voraciously in the public library and was fascinated with the philosophical works of Herbert Spencer and the fiction of Balzac. As Pizer disclosed, Spencerian philosophy "argues that there is no authority in supernaturally sanctioned moral codes, that only that which develops naturally through the struggle for existence, whether this struggle occurs in nature or society, is beneficial. And Balzac's novels... reaffirmed Dreiser's own belief that the seeker will find in the great city not only struggle, degradation, and destruction but also wonder, beauty, and fulfillment."  In these two writers' works, he confirmed the impressions of experience he had been acquiring the last several years.

 

Motifs

Dreiser often wrote "rags-to-riches"stories and handled them based on the issues he had dealt with as a journalist—"crime, disease, prostitution, vagrancy, and the violence and double-dealing behind huge wealth."He was not the first novelist of his generation to write the poverty and violence of the city, but he was the very novelist who really experienced poverty. His personal experiences enabled him to capture precisely the desire to escape poverty and the desire to possess wealth in a society that was in a period of transformation—"the tide of migration from country to city; the impersonal nature of the urban setting of factories, tenements, and department stores; the contrast of poverty and wealth; the new culture of conspicuous consumption"were all at the center of Dreiser's work. Also, writing someone in the reality or personal experiences into his fiction was just like what a journalist did. For example, Sister Carrie was written based on one of his sisters' life; The Financier was based on the Chicago financier Charles T. Yerkes's life; An American Tragedy was based centrally on the murder trial of Chester Gillette.

 

Criticism

Criticism on Dreiser went to two extremes. First is about Dreiser's command of language and style. While some attacked that his writing was full of "circumlocution, inversion, uncertain vocabulary, and overburdened syntax", other critics considered his writing was singular in giving excited details and recording documented fact. Similar extremity appeared in evaluating themes of Dreiser's novels. Because Dreiser wrote his belief in evolutionary, materialistic determinism, and his preoccupation with sex into his novels, his characters were often motivated by their own selfish impulses and the social class pressures that surrounded them rather than the higher sense of ethics. His works, therefore, often encountered strong reproaches from conservative critics, who spoke for Puritan moralism. However, Dreiser's significance in American literary history had been generally acknowledged because of "his fearlessness, his honesty, his determination to have done with conventional posturings and evasions. It was extremely important that we should have some one bold enough to set down in the English language just as he saw it the unvarnished truth about American business life, American social life in its major reaches, and the sex-psychology of American men and women,"asserted by Joseph Warren Beach, author of The Twentieth Century Novel: Studies in Technique.

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References

"Theodore (Herman Albert) Dreiser," in Contemporary Authors.


"Theodore Dreiser," in American Decades CD-ROM. Gale Research, 1998.


"Theodore Dreiser," in Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.


"Theodore Dreiser," in St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. 5 vols. St. James Press, 2000.


"Theodore Dreiser," in Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: Realism, Naturalism, and Local Color, 1865-1917. Gale Research, 1988.


 

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