Faculty Bookshelf: Clare Eby

Books by Clare Virginia Eby


Until Choice Do Us Part: Marriage Reform in the Progressive Era (University of Chicago Press, 2014)

For centuries, people have been thinking and writing—and fiercely debating—about the meaning of marriage. Just a hundred years ago, Progressive era reformers embraced marriage not as a time-honored repository for conservative values, but as a tool for social change.

In Until Choice Do Us Part, Clare Virginia Eby offers a new account of marriage as it appeared in fiction, journalism, legal decisions, scholarly work, and private correspondence at the turn into the twentieth century. She begins with reformers like sexologist Havelock Ellis, anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons, and feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who argued that spouses should be “class equals” joined by private affection, not public sanction. Then Eby guides us through the stories of three literary couples—Upton and Meta Fuller Sinclair, Theodore and Sara White Dreiser, and Neith Boyce and Hutchins Hapgood—who sought to reform marriage in their lives and in their writings, with mixed results. With this focus on the intimate side of married life, Eby views a historical moment that changed the nature of American marriage—and that continues to shape marital norms today.

eby-cambridge history of the american novel

The Cambridge History of the American Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Editor, with Leonard Cassuto and Benjamin Reiss.

This ambitious literary history traces the American novel from its emergence in the late eighteenth century to its diverse incarnations in the multi-ethnic, multi-media culture of the present day. In a set of original essays by renowned scholars from all over the world, the volume extends important critical debates and frames new ones. Offering new views of American classics, it also breaks new ground to show the role of popular genres – such as science fiction and mystery novels – in the creation of the literary tradition. One of the original features of this book is the dialogue between the essays, highlighting cross-currents between authors and their works as well as across historical periods. While offering a narrative of the development of the genre, the History reflects the multiple methodologies that have informed readings of the American novel and will change the way scholars and readers think about American literary history.


Theodore Dreiser: The Genius (University of Illinois Press, 2008). Editor.

Theodore Dreiser heavily invested himself in The Genius, an autobiographical novel first published in 1915. Thoroughly immersed in the turn-of-the-century art scene, The Genius explores the multiple conflicts between art and business, art and marriage, and between traditional and modern views of sexual morality. Despite heavy editing, The Genius was deemed so shocking that its sale was immediately prohibited by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. It was not released until 1923, and thereafter the episode confirmed Dreiser’s status as a writer ahead of his time.

Clare Virginia Eby’s new edition brings to print for the first time Dreiser’s original version of the novel as he composed it in 1911. The protagonist Eugene Witla, as well as the women he loves, emerge as very different characters than they appear in the 1915 edition and the ending takes a markedly different turn. Witla is less the defiant rebel here and more a figure torn between conservatism and rebellion. Dreiser’s attention to female characters’ inner lives, their passions, sexual and otherwise, renders them more comprehensible and sympathetic. Long understood as the most autobiographical of Dreiser’s novels, this new edition suggests a younger, less assertive Dreiser whose mature ideas of self, masculinity, artistic achievement, and worldly success were still in the process of formation.


The Cambridge Companion to Theodore Dreiser (Cambridge University Press, 2004). Editor.

Theodore Dreiser is one of the most penetrating observers of the greatest period of social change the United States ever saw. Writing as America emerged as the world’s wealthiest nation, Dreiser chronicled industrial and economic transformation and the birth of consumerism with an unmatched combination of detail, sympathy, and power. The specially commissioned essays collected in this volume are written by a leading team of scholars of American literature and culture. They establish new parameters for both scholarly and classroom discussion of Dreiser. This Companion provides fresh perspectives on the frequently read classics, Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, as well as on topics of perennial interest, such as Dreiser’s representation of the city and his prose style. The volume investigates topics such as his representation of masculinity and femininity, and his treatment of ethnicity. It is the most comprehensive introduction to Dreiser’s work available.


Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle: Contexts and Backgrounds (Norton, 2002). Editor.

The Jungle‘s influence on the “real world” is extraordinary for a literary work. Sinclair’s 1906 landmark novel is credited with awakening the widespread public fury that led to the rapid passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906), a watershed in consumer protection and government legislation.

The Jungle has drawn comment from historians, policy makers, and literary critics. “Contexts and Backgrounds” does full justice to the disparate social, historical, political, and literary dimensions of the novel.

“Criticism” includes eight readings sure to foster classroom discussion of The Jungle as a literary text, as a historical document in its own right, as a contribution to Progressive-era muckraking, and as an important document in urban, economic, and labor history.


Dreiser and Veblen, Saboteurs of the Status Quo (University of Missouri Press, 1999)

In this important interdisciplinary study, Clare Eby argues that the writings of Theodore Dreiser and Thorstein Veblen form a neglected chapter in the history of United States cultural criticism that is especially relevant today.

This study leaves behind the narrow frameworks through which most of Veblen’s and Dreiser’s writings have been interpreted, covering a wide range of both authors’ major and minor works. Moving beyond Veblen’sThe Theory of the Leisure Class and Dreiser’sSister Carrie, Eby shows how the two writers, as saboteurs of the status quo, anticipated many preoccupations of cultural critics today: the cultural role of the intellectual, the relationship of science to society, the place of consumption in modern life, and the intersection of class, gender, and power.

Eby uses cultural criticism as a unifying concept that shows how Veblen fuses satire, sociology, economics, history, psychology, anthropology, political science, and philosophy; and how Dreiser connects fiction, travelogue, literary manifesto, occasional essay, autobiography, biography, and philosophy. By reading Veblen through Dreiser, and Dreiser through Veblen, Eby illustrates the striking parallels between their works, demonstrating how literature and social science can merge in cultural criticism.

Although Dreiser’s interest in the natural and social sciences has often been noted, this study provides the only extended analysis of how his works actually resemble, and strive to become, critically informed social science. Similarly, despite the singularity of Veblen’s rhetoric, the centrality of literary devices to his works has never been systematically examined. By placing the works of Veblen and Dreiser into dialogue, this study contributes significantly to the recent attempts to bring together the concerns of literary analysts and social scientists.