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Literary Journalism across the Globe

Literary Journalism across the Globe: Journalistic Traditions and Transnational Influences

John S. Bak
Bill Reynolds
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Literary Journalism across the Globe
    Book Description:

    At the end of the nineteenth century, several countries were developing journalistic traditions similar to what we identify today as literary reportage or literary journalism. Yet throughout most of the twentieth century, in particular after World War I, that tradition was overshadowed and even marginalized by the general perception among democratic states that journalism ought to be either “objective,” as in the American tradition, or “polemical,” as in the European. Nonetheless, literary journalism would survive and, at times, even thrive. How and why is a story that is unique to each nation. Though largely considered an AngloAmerican phenomenon today, literary journalism has had a long and complex international history, one built on a combination of traditions and influences that are sometimes quite specific to a nation and at other times come from the blending of cultures across borders. These essays examine this phenomenon from various international perspectives, documenting literary journalism’s rich and diverse heritage and describing its development within a global context. In addition to the editors, contributors include David Abrahamson, Peiqin Chen, Clazina Dingemanse, William Dow, Rutger de Graaf, John Hartsock, Nikki Hessell, Maria LassilaMerisalo, Edvaldo Pereira Lima, Willa McDonald, Jenny McKay, Sonja Merljak Zdovc, Sonia Parratt, Norman Sims, Isabel Soares,and Soenke Zehle.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-032-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    John S. Bak

    At the end of the nineteenth century, several countries were developing journalistic traditions similar to what we identify today as literary journalism or literary reportage. Throughout most of the twentieth century, however, and in particular after World War I, that tradition was overshadowed and even marginalized by the general perception among democratic states that journalism ought to be either “objective,” as in the American tradition, or “polemical,” as in the European one. Nonetheless, literary journalism would survive and at times even thrive. How and why is a story unique to each nation.

    While many students, scholars, and practitioners of literary...

  5. Part I: Toward a Theory of International Literary Journalism

    • Chapter 1 Literary Reportage: The “Other” Literary Journalism
      (pp. 23-46)
      John C. Hartsock

      Given the similarities in terms, it would be easy to assume that “literary reportage” and “literary journalism” are one and the same genre. But consider the following: journalists Svetlana Alexievich and Anna Politkovskaya, who derive from the same Soviet and post-Soviet cultural milieu, have both been described as writers of “literary reportage” and its variant “reportage literature.” Yet they pose a riddle in genre studies because as journalists, they have produced work that is strikingly different, as even a cursory examination will reveal. Alexievich’s work is one in which the narrative and descriptive modalities dominate in what has been characterized...

    • Chapter 2 Reportage in the U.K.: A Hidden Genre?
      (pp. 47-60)
      Jenny McKay

      When Alexandra Fuller won the world’s most prestigious award for literary reportage in 2005, her book was hailed as “a spellbinding literary achievement.” Few British readers got to know this, even though Fuller was born in Britain, and her bookScribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier(2005), for which the award was made, was published by Penguin, a publishing house that originated in Britain. The reason British readers didn’t know was that the award received “next to no mention” in the British press.¹ I found out about it by accident when I was talking to Penguin about books...

    • Chapter 3 The Edge of Canadian Literary Journalism: The West Coast’s Restless Search for Meaning versus Central Canada’s Chronicles of the Rich and Powerful
      (pp. 61-78)
      Bill Reynolds

      Some years ago, American literary journalist John Vaillant, then in his mid-thirties, decided to make magazine feature writing his vocation. Once he had done so, he labored extensively but successfully, experiencing a personal breakthrough in 1999 by having one of his stories published in the New Yorker.¹ A couple of years later, the Boston native then moved from Philadelphia to Vancouver because his wife had been accepted into graduate school at the University of British Columbia. This enormous geographic shift—from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast of Canada—required a proverbial leap of faith....

    • Chapter 4 The Counter-Coriolis Effect: Contemporary Literary Journalism in a Shrinking World
      (pp. 79-84)
      David Abrahamson

      I must confess that with this essay, I hope to start an argument, to present more questions than answers, to offer a provocation. If, dear reader, you will permit a moment’s digression, it might be helpful if I shared an aside or two suggesting just how modest my goals are.

      Early in my career in the academy, one of my mentors made what I thought then—and still believe today—to be a telling observation about scholarship. He said that even though all of the scholarly effort attempts actually to create new knowledge, perhaps as little as 10 percent of...

    • Chapter 5 The Evolutionary Future of American and International Literary Journalism
      (pp. 85-92)
      Norman Sims

      In 1935 Joseph North, who was editor ofThe New Massesin Greenwich Village during the Great Depression, understood how important literary journalism was. He said that literary journalism—or what at the time he called “reportage”—was “three-dimensional” reporting. “The writer not only condenses reality,” North said, but also “helps the reader feel the fact. The finest writers of reportage are artists in the fullest sense of the term. They do their editorializing through their imagery.”¹

      If North were around to look at the world today, he’d find literary journalism or reportage just as important now as it was...

  6. Part II: Journalistic Traditions

    • Chapter 6 Dutch Literary Journalism: From Pamphlet to Newspaper (ca. 1600–1900)
      (pp. 95-117)
      Clazina Dingemanse and Rutger de Graaf

      When exploring the field of literary journalism, one undoubtedly encounters Tom Wolfe’s volumeThe New Journalism. In one section called “Is the New Journalism Really New?” Wolfe discusses several possible early examples of literary journalism. He focuses primarily on eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century novelists, concluding that while some could definitely be considered “not half-bad candidates,” literary journalism in general did not come into its own until the twentieth century.¹

      Our intent here is to reexamine Wolfe’s question of early examples of proto-literary journalism by taking a closer look at the popular pamphlet press. The intermingling of literary techniques, fiction, reality,...

    • Chapter 7 Literary Journalism’s Magnetic Pull: Britain’s “New” Journalism and the Portuguese at the Fin-de-Siècle
      (pp. 118-133)
      Isabel Soares

      In referring to, studying, or reading about literary journalism, the tendency is to consider it an Anglophone phenomenon if for no other reason than the fact that a proto-literary journalism emerged in the nineteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic: the “new” journalism ascribed to W. T. Stead, Henry Mayhew, and Andrew Mearns in Britain, and to Jack London and Jacob Riis in the United States.¹ Moreover, names such as Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote have become so synonymous with the form’s evolution in the twentieth century that the bond between the English language and literary journalism...

    • Chapter 8 Literary Journalism in Spain: Past, Present (and Future?)
      (pp. 134-147)
      Sonia Parratt

      A casual look at Spanish newspapers and magazines today is enough to give a general impression of how important literary journalism is to the print media in that country. To be sure, literary and journalistic activities have shared a long and complex history, although many years had to pass before that relationship was considered as an object of analysis. In Spain in particular, the situation is not much different. Although the origins of that journalism versus literature debate there can be traced back more than a century and a half, how the relationship between journalism and literature began in Spain...

    • Chapter 9 Social Movements and Chinese Literary Reportage
      (pp. 148-161)
      Peiqin Chen

      Chinese literary reportage, orbaogao wenxue, is a genre that combines journalism and literature, in which the journalism should be truthful and the literature artful. How truthful or how artful remains a contentious subject within the Chinese academy, though scholars do agree that literary reportage should meet the basic requirements of journalism—truthfulness, timeliness, and freshness—and be written with passion and literary skill similar to that of novelists. Furthermore, Chinese literary reportage, as stated in the authoritative Chinese dictionary published in 1988, must serve a political end. Leading Chinese critics believe that sharp criticism of society is the soul...

    • Chapter 10 A Century of Nonfiction Solitude: A Survey of Brazilian Literary Journalism
      (pp. 162-183)
      Edvaldo Pereira Lima

      From the very late 1800s to the very early 2000s, literary journalism has played out an errant but meaningful history in Brazil. While it has never been mainstream in the Brazilian news media, literary journalism has proved its staying power through the writings of two exceptional individuals, Euclides da Cunha and João do Rio. The unforgettable, albeit brief, golden age of the genre in the 1960s and 1970s—thanks to a daily newspaper,Jornal da Tarde, and to a monthly news magazine,Realidade—has left a legacy that even now sparks the dreams of veteran and young Brazilian writers alike....

    • Chapter 11 Literary Journalism in Twentieth-Century Finland
      (pp. 184-208)
      Maria Lassila-Merisalo

      Literary journalism is practically an unknown term in Finland. That does not mean the form does not exist there, however. On the contrary, literary reportage emerged in Finnish newspapers around the same time that journalism itself started becoming a full-time profession in the country, that is, at the dawn of the twentieth century. The problem instead is one of semantics and of recognition. This essay aims to recover the tradition of literary journalism in Finland by highlighting certain points relevant to the development of Finnish journalism throughout the twentieth century.¹

      To begin with, there are a couple of reasons why...

  7. Part III: Transnational Influences

    • Chapter 12 Riding the Rails with Robin Hyde: Literary Journalism in 1930s New Zealand
      (pp. 211-224)
      Nikki Hessell

      Readers of the June 1936 issue of theNew Zealand Railways Magazinewere greeted with an exhortation from the Government Tourist Bureau to “Know Your Own Country.” Accompanied by pictures of Mitre Peak and Mount Egmont, the bureau’s promotional material asked New Zealanders to see travel and tourism as their patriotic duty: “This country of ours is a land of which we can be justifiably proud, for in no other country in the world is there concentrated such a wealth of scenic splendour.”¹ One series of articles included in the magazine at this time particularly complemented this message. It was...

    • Chapter 13 James Agee’s “Continual Awareness,” Untold Stories: “Saratoga Springs” and “Havana Cruise”
      (pp. 225-237)
      William Dow

      Like hisLet Us Now Praise Famous Men(1941), James Agee’s shorter literary journalism expresses the hope of trying to invent a new transforming aesthetic practice in which, as he states in his masterwork, “the reader is no less centrally involved than the authors and those of whom they tell.”¹ Agee’sFamous Men, composed of photographs by Walker Evans and Agee’s narrative, began as a straightforward documentary forFortune’s “Life and Circumstances” series on the daily existence of “blue- and white-collar families during the depression”² but soon evolved into a meditation on what Agee defines as “the nominal subject”: “North...

    • Chapter 14 Željko Kozinc, the Subversive Reporter: Literary Journalism in Slovenia
      (pp. 238-259)
      Sonja Merljak Zdovc

      A little bit of heart and sincerity can’t do any harm, or so thought a small group of reporters writing for the Slovene journalTovariš(Comrade), a widely circulated illustrated magazine established in 1945 that thrived in the 1960s and early 1970s.¹ These fourteen journalists and two photographers, all of them without journalistic education or experience, wrote forTovarišat a time when most journalists in Slovenia saw themselves as auxiliaries to contemporary politics. These journalists, famous for their stories on social issues, soon learned an important lesson: since analytical factographic reporting was not possible in their country, they had...

    • Chapter 15 Creditable or Reprehensible? The Literary Journalism of Helen Garner
      (pp. 260-275)
      Willa McDonald

      The reactions by critics and the general public to the literary journalism of Helen Garner, one of Australia’s leading writers, demonstrate that writing reportage with the eye of a novelist raises professional and ethical challenges. Garner’s nonfiction, while masterly in its use of language, has a history of drawing heated comments from the mainstream Australian media but little attention from the academy as the subject of literary analysis. While she has many champions, Garner remains a controversial writer to many critics, such as Katherine Wilson, Matthew Ricketson, Virginia Trioli, and Inga Clendinnen, for the way she utilizes fictional techniques in...

    • Chapter 16 Ryszard Kapuściński and the Borders of Documentarism: Toward Exposure without Assumption
      (pp. 276-294)
      Soenke Zehle

      Even if we grant that contemporary literary journalism has many fathers and mothers, Ryszard Kapuściński was surely one of its most influential representatives. Aware of the way in which the technologies of reportage affect, structure, and transform our attentiveness to events, the Polish writer remained seemingly old-fashioned in his vision of journalism as a creative craft independent of the tyranny of real-time news and the “house styles” assumed to define and limit the expectations of established news audiences. His engaged work frequently crosses the borders of journalism understood in a narrowly documentarist sense. It is celebrated by some as an...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 295-298)
  9. Index
    (pp. 299-306)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)