Fish, Crystal, and Loop: Dreiser’s Histories in the “Trilogy of Desire”

Graham, Thomas Austin

This article analyzes the historical methodology of Theodore Dreiser’s “Trilogy of Desire,” which includes his novels The Financier, The Titan, and The Stoic. Focusing on the novels’ depictions of the American economy in the second half of the nineteenth century, the article demonstrates how Dreiser’s treatments of the period did and did not resemble those of professional historians and contemporary business writers. Dreiser is shown to be studying the American past from a variety of perspectives, including scientific, evolutionary, spiritual, and mythical ones. The article ultimately concludes that Dreiser’s Trilogy argues for a diverse, multi-disciplinary approach to history writing, and that it suggests the genre of the novel is an especially effective instrument of retrospection.


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English and Comparative Literature
The Johns Hopkins University Press
Published Here
March 22, 2016