A shot across the bowels

“The argument needs to be put forcefully: reportage is the norm (and the normal) globally, new journalism is a transgression,” Beate Josephi said in her paper on comparing criteria on literary journalism across countries. Josephi took issue with using one country’s experience and types of nonfiction as the norm and said that, for example, those studying literary journalism had concluded, by using the reference point of the journalism of the US, that there was no such practice in Germany, which, she said, had a rich tradition of eyewitness journalism called reportage. Continue reading “A shot across the bowels”

To I or not to I

Jo Bech-Karlsen reading the work of Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad from the Middle East, had this to say about her shift from objective to subjective reporting (which when used by Newsweek was drastically edited for the use of I): “Sometimes the use of I is a ritualised genre convention.”

Richard Keeble responded by saying “there are many ways to express the I” and he refered to Orwell’s use of ‘you’ and ‘one’ which leave no reader in doubt as to whose mind is guiding the writing.

Mark Masse said perhaps the way to decide on the use of the personal pronoun is to assess whether it is tied to the structure, then it has rationale.

Chains of desire

Off to a good start at IALJS 8 with Robert Alexander using Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief to show that there is a narrative drive in literary journalism to produce a story that is satisfying as story but which also produces meaning. The narrative drive pushes towards closure but this might be so at odds with meaning that the story might not be able to achieve closure.

Alexander used the idea of desire to say that writer, source and reader (through their expectations of genre) all come to the story invested. “A chain of desires saturates the process,” he said. In Orlean’s quest to find the ghost orchid in the Florida swamps she depends on her guide John Laroche to immerse her into his obsession and lead her to it. Thigh deep in swamp they don’t find it, “the story depends on the stability of Laroche’s desire” but the actual source is unreliable and unable to sustain his passion and with it her narrative arc. “Sources cannot be reduced to types of their desires,” he said.

IALJS 8

Dateline: Tampere, Finland
Subject: literary journalism around the world (with two contributions from South Africa)
Who: a whole bunch of literary journalism scholars
First up: “Subjectivities and agency in literary journalism” with Robert Alexander, Lindsay Morton, Hilde van Belle and Maria Vanoost.
Then: “Notes toward a supreme nonfiction: teaching literary reportage in the 21st century” by Robert Boynton.

It’s going to be a goodie! Watch this space for reports.