The Russian Dreiser: A Faculty-Student Research Project on Russian Attitudes Toward an Important American Social Protest Novelist

Document Type



This faculty-student research project focuses on the literary naturalist, Theodore Dreiser (1871-1946). Author of numerous novels including An American Tragedy (1925), Dreiser remains the subject of controvery both in the United States and in the former Soviet Union, two of the many venues where he was ardently read in the years following the Russian Revolution and beyond. The student in this project - Jeanna Engelman - bring a very special perspective to this analysis of Dreiser for she first encountered Dreiser as a young girl growing up in the former USSR. Attending the Cherkassay #19 High School in the Ukraine, Jeanna studied Dreiser as a "proletarian" author. Since coming to the U.S. in 1990 and now studying at Pace University, Jeanna's project was to revisit this key American social protest writer - this time from a new perspective gained through life in the U.S., her mature reflections on life in the former Soviet Union, her understanding of family dynamics (she's a wife and mother), and her major studies in the area of speech pathology and language.

Information about the Student Author

Class of 2001, Major: Speech Pathology

Summary of Research Experience

Throughout her research, Jeanna sought to answer this question: Why was Dreiser interesting to the Russian reader? She compared writing styles of Russian and American authors to answer that question. She also examined the themes and problems that were central to Dreiser's novels. Thanks to the mentorship of Professor Laura Hapke and their weekly conferences, Jeanna was able to develop her thoughts and write the following papers:

  • "The Russian Dreiser: A Narrative History of a Research Project" that appeared in Transactions, the journal of the Pace University Dyson Society of Fellows in Spring 2001.(Vol. 9)
  • A revised version of the above paper appeared in Fall 2001 MELUS Newsnotes (MELUS is an e-publication for the Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S.)
  • "The Russian Steinbeck" was published in the Winter 2002 issue of MELUS Newsnotes
  • In addition, it should be noted that Professor Hapke incorporated insights that she gleaned from working with Jeanna in a recent article entitled, "Laboring Dreiser for Working-Class Studies." The Eugene Lang Student-Faculty research award has enabled both student and professor to engage in creative exploration and literary analysis - and they have now shared their findings with a larger audience.

Faculty Mentor

Laura Hapke, Ph.D., Professor of English, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

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