Superstitious beliefs of Theodore Dreiser

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dc.contributor.advisor Sutton, William Alfred, 1915- en_US Townsend, Barbara Ann, 1929- en_US 2011-06-03T19:31:53Z 2011-06-03T19:31:53Z 1972 en_US 1972
dc.identifier LD2489.Z64 1972 .T69 en_US
dc.description.abstract Although Theodore Dreiser has gained a reputation for ,objective, scientific observation of life, he also showed a strong tendency to believe in superstition-charms, omens, premonitions, fortune-telling, astrology, prophetic dreams, and spiritualism. Such beliefs do not lend themselves to scientific observation and proof. This paper deals with the part of Dreiser's beliefs which was not disciplined by science. Three major aspects of superstition in Dreiser's life and works--luck, foreknowledge, and spirits--are covered in this dissertation. His investigation of religion is discussed only when it is relevant to the superstitious beliefs presented, and his pseudoscientific beliefs are not covered.The first chapter deals with Dreiser's observation of the lack of correlation between deserving and receiving good or bad luck. His biographical works show times when he felt that luck was a determining factor in his own life, and his fiction shows the operation of chance in the lives of his characters. The coincidences and ironies of his own life and those of his characters are included in this discussion because of the involvement of chance, an unpredictable aspect of life over which people can exercise no control. Along with this idea is Dreiser's inconsistent belief in the possibility of influencing luck by carrying lucky coins, knocking on wood, or hanging a horseshoe on the dashboard of a car.Chapter II deals with ways by which he thought a person might be able to learn about the future. For instance, he watched for cross-eyed women, hunchbacks, and broken or whole horseshoes. Eugene Witla, a character patterned after himself, believed that creaking doors, howling dogs, and black-bearded men were indicators of the future. Dreiser believed in predictions of fortune-tellers, and he experimented with Ouija boards. In The "Genius", astrology was a more accurate predictor than anything which science could provide. Dreams were important to Dreiser and can be found in most of his novels. They were used as both literary devices which allowed him to control the imagery and as predictors of the future. Also included in this chapter are the folk sayings and practices which were important both in his own life and in his works.The final section covers Dreiser's ideas concerning whether there is a continuance of the spirit after death. He himself went to seances and believed in the necessity for careful investigation of spiritualism as a means of gaining new knowledge about death and the operation of the universe. There is a discussion of spirit characters which indicates that, along with heredity and environment as determining factors in life, there is also the possibility of the intervention of spirits in the occurrences of this world.The significance of this study for readers of Dreiser is that he really should not be given so much credit for his scientific approach to philosophy and literature. There were inconsistencies in his thinking caused by his family background and by gaps in his education. His notions concerning such matters as faith healing, thought materialization, and the validity of predictions and signs kept him from being the cold-blooded, objective, scientific observer of life for which he has been credited. His work shows his constant search for answers to questions concerning the Creative Force and the operation of the universe, but his questions were beyond the power of science to answer. He arrived at a philosophy based upon his own observation of life, his reading, his intuition, and his desire to uncover some kind of proof of intelligent planning behind the universe. en_US
dc.format.extent v, 297 leaves ; 28 cm. en_US
dc.source Virtual Press en_US
dc.subject.lcsh Superstition in literature. en_US
dc.subject.other Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945. en_US
dc.title Superstitious beliefs of Theodore Dreiser en_US Thesis (D. Ed.) en_US
dc.identifier.cardcat-url en_US

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  • Doctoral Dissertations [3121]
    Doctoral dissertations submitted to the Graduate School by Ball State University doctoral candidates in partial fulfillment of degree requirements.

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