AuthorRausch, Juliana Adele
Committee memberO'Hara, Daniel T.
Kitch, Carolyn L.
Literary Journalism Studies
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/2216
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractCan journalism be avant-garde? This question arises from the body of work produced by the New Journalists, whose leading figures include Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, and Norman Mailer. Today, this question is urgent for considerations of the journalist’s role within a political landscape increasingly hostile to the news media. Yet it is a question that has not been sufficiently explored in the field of literary study. Scholars of literary journalism have identified the features of an experimental journalism, traced its historical origins, and made claims about how to situate the New Journalism generically. While important, this scholarship overlooks the relationship between experimentation with conventional journalistic form and similar experimentations in other artistic fields. As a result, the stakes of the New Journalism’s experimentations with conventional reporting have not been sufficiently mined. In order to remedy this, I place the New Journalism within a broader history of avant-garde art. The agitation of mainstream journalistic practice undertaken by each of the writers above was spurred by a questioning of a foundational journalistic practice: objectivity. The New Journalists challenged the authority of fact and its capacity to represent the human condition. This challenge to objectivity drove an experimentation with journalistic form that produced a deeply innovative body of work; however, these innovations are not merely formal. They also call into question the epistemological assumptions that tether journalism to a phenomenal world assumed to be fully representable. Significantly, the challenges to objectivity posed by the New Journalists parallel the challenges to representation posed by avant-garde artists like Paul Cezanne and Karel Appel. My dissertation thus situates the challenges to journalistic form undertaken by the New Journalists within a broader history of artistic experimentation and demonstrates that the significance of these experimentations exceeds the fields in which they occur. These arguments provide a framework for understanding not only the formal innovations of avant-garde artists, but also the epistemological consequences, and ethical imperatives, inherent in these innovations. My understanding of avant-garde art is informed by the work of Jean-Francois Lyotard. Over the course of his career, Lyotard illuminated the philosophical dimensions of artistic innovation. For Lyotard, one of the hallmarks of avant-garde experimentation is its ability to confront and redress problems across a variety of discursive fields. That is, Lyotard values avant-garde experimentation because it responds to discourses beyond its own, and much of Lyotard’s writing about avant-garde art establishes connections between artistic innovation and broader issues of ethics, politics, and justice. Over the course of this dissertation, I demonstrate how the New Journalism participates in this tradition by asking questions about the role and responsibility of the reporter through the self-conscious development of an experimental journalistic aesthetic.
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