| The Heath Anthology Newsletter
A New Riverside Edition of Stephen Crane
by Phyllis Frus and Stanley Corkin
When we were asked to edit and introduce a new volume of writings by Stephen Crane for the New Riverside Editions, we jumped at the opportunity. For the past several years we have been writing and talking about the importance of moving literary studies to a materialist, historical approach. Important in this shift is to make readily available the contextual materials that enable historical understanding
of American writers.
As we discovered at a 1993 University of Alabama symposium in response to our paper on Willa Cather's revision of history in her so-called pioneer
novels, although many colleagues in the field had already taken the "turn toward history," others were resistant. Calling for an explicit paradigm shift - that is, for making historical inquiry central to our discipline - proved quite controversial. Yet we continue to believe that, for this change to occur, other nonliterary texts must be readily available to teachers and students. We see the New Riverside Editions, with their emphasis on major figures in their
historical context, as an important contribution to this shift at the turn
of the millennium.
Crane died in 1900, and we have kept in mind the similarities between his decade and ours. The New Riverside Edition of Stephen Crane: The Red Badge of Courage, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, and Other Selected Writings presents Crane's major writings in the context of the late nineteenth century in the United States. While our primary focus is on the author, the links between his works and the world in which he wrote and published are,
we believe, so well elaborated that
this volume could also be used as
an introduction to the period.
For example, after a general essay introducing Crane and his times, we present a selection of texts by a range of prominent individuals who helped to define the era, such as Herbert Spencer, Andrew Carnegie, union leaders Terence Powderly and Samuel Gompers, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and William Dean Howells. These pieces orient the reader to the social, economic, and literary currents of the time, including some
of its formative debates. One major discussion concerned the role of genetics in determining social fitness. Every author we represent in this first section weighs in on this topic, from Spencer's view that apparent differences among people can be explained biologically, to Du Bois, who accepts the quasi-biological category of race but mitigates it with historical examples showing that biology is not destiny.
Readers approaching the excerpts by Carnegie and Powderly become mindful not only of the intellectual discussion of the rightful place of capital and labor, but also of the events, such as labor strikes and violence against workers, that permeated the 1890s. Similarly, to read Nathaniel Shaler's scientifically certain treatment of the connection between race and environment and then to turn to Henry Cabot Lodge's Senate speech decrying the inferior stock of immigrants to the U.S. in the 1890s is to learn how racial theory becomes racist practice.
Other sections are organized around key Crane texts (Maggie and New York City sketches; The Red Badge of Courage and three Civil War stories; "The Open Boat;" Spanish-American War stories; and "The Monster") and writings of prominent Crane contemporaries that illuminate and are illuminated by one another. Each group contains a brief background essay tracing the connections among these materials.
In Part III, for example, we place
The Red Badge of Courage - the novel without which Crane would have been relegated to the margins of the realist canon - in the context of other post-Civil War writings. First come two accounts of the battle of Chancellors-ville from "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War," which ran in Century magazine from 1884 to 1887. Crane pored over old copies of these issues in 1894 in a competitive spirit, looking in vain for the "emotion" he assumed men must have felt in battle and apparently vowing he could do better. This is accompanied by a selection from John William DeForest's Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty, one of several civil war novels with elements of realism that Crane seems to have read. We conclude this section with Ambrose Bierce's short story "Killed at Resaca" and Mark Twain's account of his abortive service with a group of Confederate irregulars in Missouri in 1861.
In Part IV, "Approaching the American Century," along with the Crane materials, we have collected trenchant commentary on the matter of U.S. expansion. We show Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge advocating an American empire in the days just prior to Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana declaring that "the twentieth century will be American." We also include opponents of imperialism-Mark Twain and Jose Marti-the former for his own ethical reasons, the latter for his hope for Cuban autonomy. This section also places Crane among other "star" journalists who were instrumental in providing a sense of the war to a vast number of readers in the US. Indeed, Crane and writers like Frank Norris and Richard Harding Davis grow in significance when we consider the Spanish-American War as a
conflict that was partially brought into existence by the desires of newspaper editors and publishers to report news of events so stirring that they compelled people to buy their newspapers.
We hope this volume will appeal to the general reader. Its design makes
it a useful course text in a variety of programs at a number of levels of instruction, from high school to
graduate school. We think instructors are likely to choose it for courses on the late-nineteenth century, realism and naturalism, American Studies
fin-de-siecle, or for courses with a broader sweep—say, literature or American culture from the Civil War to the mid-twentieth century.
Our goal in compiling this collection was to help readers see the richness
of approaching Stephen Crane within the context of how a writer variously expresses, contradicts, and simply relates to the social, intellectual, and moral concerns and currents of his or her period. Our introductory essays suggest possible connections among the collected materials. We have chosen materials from Crane's contemporaries that broaden and expand the reader's sense of the period and the author's place within it. Our choices highlight our desire to develop a complex of relationships between the texts and their world, between words on a page and actors in a material world.
New Riverside Editions:
Stephen Crane: The Red Badge of Courage,
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets,and
Other Selected Writings
Edited by Phyllis Frus (University of Michigan)
and Stanley Corkin (University of Cincinnati).
Available late December 1999.