The Critique of Journalism in Sister Carrie

UNCP Author/Contributor (non-UNCP co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dr. Mark Canada, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP )
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Abstract: Theodore Dreiser's image of the pathetic Hurstwood sitting idly in his rocking chair ranks as one of the most memorable in all of American literature. The image, like others before and since, is one of the seeker. This seeker's gaze, however, is fixed not on a whale or a green light at the end of a dock but on a newspaper. In his obsession with newspapers, Hurstwood resembled his real-life contemporaries, the Americans of the nineteenth century, who were fascinated by the phenomenon of journalism. "A hunger for print journalism has often seemed to set Americans apart from the lands they came from," Thomas Leonard has noted, adding, "This New World was frequently defined by its obsession with a page of news." Such a hunger and the growing means for satiating it would seem to have held great promise for America's literary realists, who had built a movement around their insistence on an authentic representation of reality. Who could more credibly lay claim to such a representation than journalists, who were—at least in theory—delivering facts about real people and real events to readers? Not surprisingly, many American realist fiction writers—including Mark Twain, W. D. Howells, Stephen Crane, Dreiser, and even Henry James—had, in fact, worked for newspapers or magazines; however, with the exception of Crane, all eventually not only abandoned journalism, but also singled it out for caustic criticism. What went wrong? One answer lies in Sister Carrie, one of the era's major literary statements on journalism.

Additional Information

American Literary Realism 42.3 (Spring 2010)
Language: English
Date: 2010
Newspapers, Print Journalism, American literary realists, American authors

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