UConn Joins Penn to Publish Theodore Dreiser's Works
By Sherry Fisher, Office of University Communications
STORRS, Conn. -- For the past 17 years, The Pennsylvania
Dreiser Edition, a scholarly edition of the writings of
American novelist Theodore Dreiser, has been
sponsored solely by the University of Pennsylvania's
Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Now, the
University of Connecticut will work in
collaboration with Penn to produce the internationally
recognized edition, which so far has 14 volumes.
Comparable to the Thoreau Edition at Princeton University
and the Mark Twain Edition at the University of
California-Berkeley, the joint publication will be
called the Pennsylvania-Connecticut Dreiser Edition. Thomas
P. Riggio of MANCHESTER, a UConn English professor who
has been the edition's general editor
since 1986, is instrumental in the venture. The Thomas J.
Dodd Research Center, the office of the dean of the
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the UConn
Research Foundation, and the Department of English are
UConn's project sponsors.
"Theodore Dreiser is a major figure in the American
literary canon," says John Abbott, professor and head of
the English department at UConn. "The agreement
joining the University of Connecticut with The University
of Pennsylvania Press in publishing future scholarly editions
of Dreiser's work is a major literary coup."
The University of Pennsylvania, the trustee of the Dreiser
Estate, owns the literary rights to all Dreiser's manuscripts,
including his books, unpublished writings,
letters and diaries, and personal holdings. Most of these, in
some 700 boxes, are housed in the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript
Riggio, an Americanist and Dreiser expert, will continue
to be general editor of the edition. He says four volumes
will be published during the next five years, the
smallest of which will be 500 pages and the largest more than
1,000. As general editor, Riggio chooses editors for each
volume, helps locate manuscripts,
negotiates contracts, handles funding for the program, and
checks all work.
Over the years, Riggio has personally edited five volumes:
The American Diaries, 1902-45; The
Theodore Dreiser-H.L. Mencken Correspondence, 1907-1945
(two volumes); Dearest Wilding: A Memoir (with Yvette
Eastman); and The Russian Diary.
"Dreiser kept everything," Riggio says, "even his laundry
lists." Most of the diary entries for The American
Diaries, for example, were written on small sheets of
paper, he says. "Occasionally, you'd get something written
on a menu. He threw away nothing."
Dreiser, born in 1871, battled throughout his career against
censorship. "What makes this edition unique is that
Dreiser wrote at a time when censorship in
publishing resulted in his issuing truncated versions of
most of his books," says Riggio. "For example, in 1912,
he published The Traveler at 40, a book about his
travels in Europe. When it was published, it had 52 chapters.
I now have a professor at the University of Mainz in
Germany working on a new volume that has
104 chapters." The book will be published as Dreiser originally
wrote it, along with historical and textual notes for the
Riggio is now working on two volumes of New Dreiser
Letters. Dreiser wrote about 20,000 letters, of which
only 1,200 have been published. The volumes will
include more than 1,000 previously unknown letters Dreiser
wrote to famous figures, lady friends, publishers and others.
The volumes will be fully annotated.
Riggio loves the work. "There is nothing more exciting
than seeing original letters in my hands and reading the
stuff," he says. "It's the greatest kick in the
He encourages other faculty to become involved in editing
and archival work. For instance, UConn associate professor
of English Clare Eby is editing an edition
of Dreiser's The Genius. It is not, however, the
book published in 1915, but "a very different version of the
novel, with a different emphasis," Riggio says, "one
that was written in 1911 and has never before been available
Thomas P. Wilsted, director of the Dodd Center, and Michael
Ryan, director of special collections at the Annenberg Rare
Book and Manuscript Library, will
administer the Pennsylvania-Connecticut Dreiser Edition Fund,
which will be used to help meet production costs.
Riggio says the project provides many opportunities for
students and faculty, as well as for the Dodd Center, the
library and the English department to
collaborate. He foresees graduate students in the English
department becoming involved in the Dodd Center's program
to train students in editing and archival
work. He also hopes the project encourages faculty members
who have access to archival documents to consider the Dodd
Center as a resource for housing and
editing their materials.
April 2001 Releases