Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
John R. May
In 1911 Theodore Dreiser published his novel Jennie Gerhardt . Prior to publication, the editors at Harper and Brothers cut around 16,000 words from the text. In 1992 James L. West III, Distinguished Professor of English and Fellow for the Arts and Humanities Studies at Pennsylvania State University, published a restored "Pennsylvania" edition. Scholars are now unsure of which text better represents Dreiser's original artistic vision for the novel. This dissertation closely examines the changes made to the original manuscript and concludes that these changes alter Dreiser's original artistic vision dramatically. Therefore, the 1911 edition is substantially inferior to the Pennsylvania edition. The restored material shows that Dreiser used a variety of genres to describe the different ways man can respond to life and the consequences of those responses. The 1911 edition is, however, flatter and more sentimental. In the restored text, Jennie Gerhardt is a figure from the romance who is consistently loving and sacrificial. Lester Kane, Jennie's love interest, is a mechanistic determinist. In the 1911 text, Jennie's romantic tendencies are muted considerably. As a result, she loses her place as the central character of the novel. In the Pennsylvania edition, Jennie and Lester's relationship is complex and dynamic. In the 1911 edition, cuts made to their relationship make it stereotypically sentimental. The Harper editors also destroyed the sharp distinctions between the Gerhardt family and the Kane family. In the Pennsylvania edition, the Gerhardts' actions are consistent with their ethnic background and their poverty-stricken existence. Cuts made by the Harper editors, however, obscure their ethnicity and the extent of their poverty. Mrs. Gerhardt becomes an accomplice in Jennie's downfall and Mr. Gerhardt becomes a religious fanatic. The Kanes were also rewritten. In the Pennsylvania edition, they are so obsessed with wealth, power, and place that they ignore, even exploit, any one who stands in their way. Together with Letty Gerald, they represent all that Dreiser saw wrong with capitalism. In the Harper text, the Kanes' wealth and their obsession with power are toned down considerably. As a result, the Gerhardts become less sympathetic and the Kanes more sympathetic.
Whaley, Annemarie Koning, "Silencing Dreiser: Textual Editing and Theodore Dreiser's "Jennie Gerhardt"." (2000). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 7237.