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Literary Journalism

An overview of the definition, history, and features of literary journalism.

Ilene Withers

on 5 November 2012

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Transcript of Literary Journalism

Literary Journalism by Ilene Withers What is Literary Journalism? History of Literary Journalism Why do we need Literary Journalism? Entertain Empathy What are the features of literary journalism? Educate Literary journalism is a form of writing in which factual research is combined with the elements of fiction writing to give it narrative flair (1). Literary journalism was originally called “new journalism,” a term first used by Tom Wolfe in the mid 1960’s (3). Wolfe was a reporter in New York who wrote a series of articles for "Esquire" and "New York" that “combined journalistic accuracy with novelist's eye for description, theme, and point of view.” Wolfe combined these articles into a book, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" in 1965, which became a best-seller (4). Humans need storytelling and at the heart of this art is the relationship between narrative and descriptive forms. Literary journalism is a genre that encourages us imaginatively to consider different possibilities of meaning (2).

Literary journalism can entertain us, educate us, and help us to empathize. There are several important aspects to writing literary journalism. Literary journalism is written in an entertaining style that keeps us interested in reading what the author has to say. Literary journalism uses a writing style that encourages us to think and to empathize with the subject the author has chosen to write about. Literary journalism includes factual information that can educate us about the subject the author is writing about. Scene Characters Drama Dialogue Plot The people in your story. The scene is where something happens.. The conversation used to tell the story. The tension that drives the story. The organization of the story. Literary journalism is also called narrative journalism, literary reportage, reportage literature, literary nonfiction, or creative nonfiction (2). Literary journalism has a long past. Many writers have written in a vivid narrative style (3). Daniel Defoe Samuel Clemens Ernest Hemingway Fact Exploration Technique Imaginative The Goal The driving force of the writing is based on fact (7). It explores the subject in a manner similar to memoirs or personal essays (7). It is written with style, vivid description, and narrative flow (3). It seeks to enlighten the reader through the use of imaginative language (8). “The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy (9)." "But the stories are true (9)." More recent authors include: Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a literary journalism article titled "Nickel and Dimed." She later turned it into a book. The article can be read at: (4) (6) These work together to help us to decide if we want to take action -- to work toward change. In "Nickel and Dimed" the author tells us a story that encourages us to make a difference. Critic Dwight McDonald called Tom Wolfe’s “Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby” a “bastard form” of writing, combining techniques from both journalism and fiction “with little regard for accuracy and with too much regard for entertainment (5).”

In fact, literary journalism has faced much controversy throughout the past including using narrative techniques that are only appropriate in fiction, that literary journalists "will open the door to partisan and ideological reporting," and that they "often arrogantly present their interpretation of reality . . . rather than a point of view (5)." Today literary journalism is not nearly as controversial as it has been in the past. Sources Make a Difference http://www.wesjones.com/ehrenreich.htm
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