Literary Journalism in America
Professor: Josh Roiland
Office: Flanner Hall 1038
Phone: 574-631-2599 (office)

“American novelists really do believe that there is some story out there that will explain America. Maybe nonfiction writers have inherited that quest.” —Jane Kramer

“Artists have always been the real purveyors of news, for it is not the outward happening in itself which is new, but the kindling by it of emotion, perception and appreciation.” —John Dewey

Course Description
Literary journalism is a genre of nonfiction writing that adheres to all of the reportorial and truth-telling covenants of traditional journalism, while employing rhetorical and storytelling techniques more commonly associated with fiction. In short, it is journalism as literature. This course will introduce students to the major writers, publications, controversies and questions that have emerged during American literary journalism’s 150 year history. We will start with the 19th century newspaper sketch and move through its social justice impulses at the turn of the century. We will trace literary journalism’s institutionalization at The New Yorker in the 1930s and ‘40s, and follow its proliferation at Esquire, New York, and Rolling Stone during the New Journalism era of the 1960s and ‘70s. Finally, we’ll end with a look at contemporary writers and examine the effect the digital revolution is having on the genre. Throughout this journey we will explore distinctions between physical truth and emotional truth, imagination and invention, form and content. We will note how historical and political contexts influence and appear in the works, and ask how these stories work as narratives, as cultural critiques, and as entertainment. We will examine the correlation between publication venue and readership, and note the ways literary journalism motivates citizens to act. Evaluation will be based on class participation, several short papers, and a final research paper project.

Required Texts
Norman Sims, True Stories: A Century of Literary Journalism
John Hersey, Hiroshima
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Course Requirements & Evaluation
• Mandatory daily attendance and class participation: 20%
• Five Reading Responses (700 words): 25% (total)
• Annotated Bibliography: 10%
• Research Presentation: 10%
• Research Paper (5000 words): 35%

Reading List & Writing Schedule

Introducing & Defining Literary Journalism
David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster” (Gourmet, 2004)
Michael Paterniti, “The Long Fall of One-Eleven Heavy” (Esquire, 2000)
Norman Sims, True Stories, Ch. 1: A True Story
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, “Trina & Trina” (Village Voice, 1993)
Tom Junod, “The Falling Man” (Esquire, 2001)
Tim Townsend, “The First Hours” (Rolling Stone, 2001)
Reading Response 1

Early Literary Journalism, 1890s – 1920s
Thomas B. Connery, “A Third Way to Tell the Story” from Literary Journalism in the Twentieth Century
Stephen Crane, “When Man Falls A Crowd Gathers” (New York Press 1894)
Richard Harding Davis, “The Death of Rodriguez” (New York World 1897)
Jack London, from The People of the Abyss (1903)
Ben Hecht, “The Pig” (1921)
Norman Sims, True Stories, Ch. 2: Sketches and Innovation
Reading Response 2

Second Wave of American Literary Journalism, 1930s & 1940s
Norman Sims, True Stories, Ch. 3: A Generation Goes Travelling
James Agee, “Havana Cruise” (Fortune, 1937)
Langston Hughes, “Madrid’s Flowers Hoist Blooms…” (Baltimore Afro-American, 1937)
Martha Gellhorn, “The Third Winter” (1938)
Joseph Mitchell, “Old Mr. Flood” (The New Yorker 1944)
Jimmy Cannon, “Lethal Lightning” (New York Post, 1946)
John Hersey, “Hiroshima” (The New Yorker, 1946)
Phyllis Frus, from The Politics and Poetics of Journalistic Narrative
Hugh Kenner, “The Politics of Plain Style” from Literary Journalism in the Twentieth Century
Ben Yagoda, from About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made
Kathy Roberts Forde, “Profit and Public Interest: The Publishing History of John Hersey’s Hiroshima” from Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly
Norman Sims, True Stories, Ch. 5: The Bomb
Reading Response 3+4

The New Journalism, 1960s & 1970s
Lillian Ross, “The Yellow Bus” (The New Yorker, 1960)
Norman Mailer, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket” (Esquire, 1960)
Truman Capote, from In Cold Blood (The New Yorker, 1965)
Gay Talese, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (Esquire, 1966)
Gay Talese, “The Silent Season of a Hero” (Esquire, 1966)
Michael Herr, from Dispatches (Esquire, 1968)
Tom Wolfe, from The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)
Joan Didion, “On Morality” (The American Scholar, 1965)
Joan Didion, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream” (The Saturday Evening Post, 1966)
Joan Didion, “L.A. Notebook” (The Saturday Evening Post, 1967)
Joan Didion, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” (The Saturday Evening Post, 1967)
Joan Didion, “On the Morning After the Sixties” (The Saturday Evening Post, 1970)
Hunter S. Thompson, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” (Scanlan’s 1970)
Norman Sims, True Stories, Ch. 6: Tourist in a Strange Land
John J. Pauly, “The Politics of New Journalism” from Literary Journalism in the Twentieth Century
David Eason, “The New Journalism and the Image World” from Literary Journalism in the Twentieth Century
Reading Responses 5

The New, New Journalism? 1980s to Present
Susan Orlean, “The American Man at Age Ten” (Esquire, 1992)
Ted Conover, “The Road is Very Unfair” (The New Yorker, 1993)
David Foster Wallace, “Getting Away From Already Pretty Being Much Away From It All” (Harper’s, 1996)
Jim Sheeler, “Final Salute” (Rocky Mountain News, 2006)
Norman Sims, True Stories, Ch. 7: New Generations
Robert Boynton, Introduction to The New, New Journalism
Josh Roiland, “Getting Away From It All: The Literary Journalism of David Foster Wallace and
Nietzsche’s Concept of Oblivion” from The Legacy of David Foster Wallace
Reading Response 6

Final Paper Packet
Final Paper Proposal
Final Paper 1.1
Peer-Review Questionnaire
Annotated Bibliography
Final Paper 1.2
Final Paper 1.3
Final Paper Process Reflection

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