Essays on Theodore Dreiser
PIZER_book.indd 119 09/08/13 4:06 PM PIZER_book.indd 120 09/08/13 4:06 PM · 9 · theodore dreiser’s “nigger jeff”: the development of an aesthetic Thanks to the work of Robert H. Elias and W. A. Swanberg, we are beginning to have an adequate sense of Dreiser’s life. But many aspects of Dreiser the art- ist remain relatively obscure or unexplored—in particular his aesthetic beliefs and fictional techniques at various stages of his career. An excellent oppor- tunity to study Dreiser’s developing aesthetic lies in the existence of several versions of his short story “Nigger Jeff.” The extant versions of this story reveal with considerable clarity and force Dreiser’s changing beliefs concerning the nature of fiction. Dreiser’s first attempt to write a story about the lynching of a Missouri Negro is preserved in an unpublished University of Virginia manuscript called “A Victim of Justice.”1 Although “A Victim of Justice” is clearly a work of the 1890s, it is difficult to date its composition precisely. The narrator of the story begins by noting that he has recently spent “a day in one of Missouri’s pleasant villages.” While visiting a Potter’s Field, he recalls a Missouri lynch- ing “several years since.” This opening situation is the product of a number of events of the mid-1890s. Dreiser was a reporter for the St. Louis Republic in the Fall of 1893, and it was during this period that he observed the lynching on which the story is based.2 In addition, on July 23,...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.