Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blog 9: Romantics vs. Rationalists

Webb tackles the concept of 'new journalism' that I struggle with the most: addressing the subjective thoughts inside a person's head while still factually reporting what is happening outside of that head.  I have difficulty reconciling such a questionable, 'factual' reporting ground and still calling the pieces truthful journalism.

The scale provided by Webb asserts that a person cannot be purely realist or purely romantic; instead, they have a bit of both.  Where is an audience to assimilate, though?  At what point must a writer share with an audience that a work is mostly romantic or mostly realist, when both works appear on the same page?  Or are we expected to discern for ourselves when each piece comes in the same package with the same wrapper?  Or believe that they are the same and not try to make differentiations?  Most of the pieces we have read proclaim to be factual reporting; Hersey and Capote both believe their writing to be pure truth without any conjectures.

Yet their writing is categorized with Wolfe's, who believes that reality is internal.  Instead of arguing about names and constraints, shouldn't we find categories and subcategories for this literature?  If Capote, Hersey, Herr and Boswell wrote with the belief that truth is external and must be made apparent by external factors, should they be grouped with Wolfe and LeBlanc, who create a world based on their opinion of the truth around them, including their perception of someone else's perceptions and feelings?

Also, is there a degree that must be reached for one to admit their writing is primarily romantic or mostly realistic?  Should we classify these writings in different sections, set apart by percentages of truthfulness?  This is not to say that the merit of writing should be judged according to the amount of truth that is found in the pages.  Each writing is remarkable and noteworthy in its own right.  I just feel that if there were other categories of writing rather than "journalism" and the still-not-widely-accepted/liked "new journalism" we could stop quibbling about specifics and worry about the writing and what makes each so impressive.

Capote and Hersey claim to be cut from a different cloth than Wolfe or Whitman because of their reportage but none of these writers were even present for the things they wrote about.  Wolfe's writing even has the chance to be more accurate because he has footage and video of the events he writes about; Hersey and Capote have people's thoughts and memories.  Defoe purported that his writing was factual and yet audiences today see too many irreconcilable differences in facts and his work.

Boswell works with Webb's idea well.  He writes in a factual style, was present for the encounters he reproduced, and when he makes a claim that is subjective, does not try to pass it off as anything but that.  The audience is able to see when he is making a statement based on what he saw versus reporting what he saw.  In this way, he shows the audience both the subjective feelings of human beings that Webb refers to and the factual side, ie, these people met, at this time and place to discuss this issue...

Question: If you were to rename and classify new journalism with many different subcategories, what would you name it and how would you break the writings apart?  What litmus test would you use to say where each piece of writing should go and why?

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, good question. I think I would take Webb's 4th element and use that as my name to describe new journalism: "Dynamic journalism" .
    The elements I would incorporate are 1.) Motion- writers ability to keep the story moving horizontally and vertically. 2.) Characterization- deining diverse characters 3.) Internal Reality (I would keep this one from Webb because I think it's important and I think he defined it well 4.) Collective or Individual message- this is what I think makes the "romantic" reading different from just "hard fact reporting". The message the reader can take away from the piece whether its at a wholism approach as Webb suggests or an individual's story.