Date of Award

12-9-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Susan I. Gatti, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Karen Dandurand, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Christopher M. Kuipers, Ph.D.

Abstract

This four-part study of Willa Cather’s journalistic and fiction writing examines the interplay between the two and argues that Cather applied the methods and characteristics of literary journalism or “New Journalism,” a form of journalism that merges fact-based reportage with narrative style, decades before the terms were defined in the 1960s and 1970s. This long overdue stylistic study analyzes and historicizes the author’s early professional newspaper and magazine writing and fiction writing. It shows how Cather employed narrative style and literary theories to her newspaper writing to render it more colorful and interesting and how she used journalistic principles and reportage to create the framework for her literary writing. This study asserts that Cather’s journalism proved integral to her fiction in that she merged elements from both genres to create new, more complicated forms to address reality, aesthetics, and a rapidly changing, turn-of-the-century American society. The methodology of this study involves an analysis of Cather’s newspaper reviews and columns to determine what narrative and literary elements she chose to incorporate therein. In turn, it examines her fiction and finds evidence of reportage techniques and journalistic principles. This analysis includes an examination of Cather’s “novel démeublé,” or unfurnished novel; it asserts that her theoretical model is a compromise between the two genres, one which enabled her to merge reportage principles and journalistic reduction methods with literary writing. The study concludes that Cather’s journalism heavily impacted and informed her fiction. She fused and synthesized journalistic facts and principles with literary style and imagination to create complex forms. Viewed as early literary journalism, her work serves as a template for new, innovative writing forms that attempt to define reality and present a vision of the world in both journalistic and literary disciplines.

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