The Literary Journalism as Illuminator of Subjectivity

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Date
1990
Authors
Belgrade, Paul S.
Advisor
Gillespie, Patti P.
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Abstract
Research into objectivity in the news media abounds. Much of it indicates that objectivity is a flawed concept, one most difficult to incorporate into traditional journalistic practice. This study, departing from the customary line of inquiry, concentrates instead on the ability of journalism to illuminate subjectivity. The literary journalism is selected as the focus of this study because it both adheres to the journalistic contract to sustain factualism and intentionally creates individual versions of reality. Examples of literary journalism are analyzed to determine how they illuminate subjectivity and how they deal with the tension between objectivity and subjectivity. Examples of the life history and fiction, two contiguous forms of writing that also emphasize subjectivity, are investigated to determine how they meet these same challenges. Choosing for the examples works on a similar subject, the lives of mildly retarded men, facilitates the comparison of the three forms. In a final experimental exercise, the author creates an original example of literary journalism on the same subject, Although authors of all three forms exhibited difficulty in dealing with the tension between objectivity and subjectivity, the willingness of authors of literary journalism to reveal this conflict served to help resolve it. After comparing the three forms' techniques for illuminating subjectivity, the author combined techniques of literary journalism with techniques borrowed from both the life history and fiction to illustrate major ways by which literary journalism can achieve the illumination of subjectivity. Literary journalism was proficient both at illuminating its authors' subjective realities and the subjective realities of the works' main actors. In a comparison of the three forms, literary journalism proved to be more powerful than the life history but less powerful than fiction at revealing authors' subjective realities. Conversely, literary journalism proved to be more powerful than fiction but less powerful than the life history at illuminating actors' subjective realities. The strong narrative voice within works of literary journalism proved to be the most effective of the literary techniques at illuminating subjectivity, although the controlling presence of authors within works of literary journalism sometimes overwhelmed other important elements.
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