English R1B

Reading and Composition: Fake/News: New Journalism, the War on Truth, and Democracy in Peril

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Spring 2019 Cruz, Frank Eugene
MWF 12-1 122 Wheeler

Book List

Acosta, Oscar Zeta: The Revolt of the Cockroach People; Didion, Joan: We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction; Ellis, Warren and Darick Robertson: Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Streets; Thompson, Hunter S.: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Other American Stories; Wolfe, Tom: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test


"New Journalism" has always been a slippery term. But this literary movement from the 1960s and '70s, that rejected notions of journalistic objectivity in favor of political and cultural commitment, and malaise in favor of "gonzo" participation, and embraced notions of "truth" and art over and against fact and information, suddenly appears even more complex in light of our contemporary political and historical moment. With the rise of Donald J. Trump and his surprising MAGA coalition (from coal workers in Kentucky to Kanye West), it seems that the American cultural imagination is poised to grapple with many of the tensions and contradictions that produced New Journalism's heyday. Questions of truth and lies, fact and fiction, real and fake, actual and virtual, are again playing out across the newspapers, magazines, and TV news programs consumed by millions of Americans daily, in addition to 21st-century new-media spaces, in hyper speed (social media "feeds," "timelines," and the minute-to-minute news cycle). This surprising return of the problems (if not poetics) of New Journalism has been complicated by the alarming proliferation of Orwellian doublespeak in national political discourse, which is legible in part through a number of keywords that will guide our thinking in this course, including "alternative facts," "post-truth," and of course, "fake news." In this course, we will reconsider the "novels," essays, memoirs, and visual culture of New Journalism through the texts of Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Michael Herr, Gay Talese, Norman Mailer, Ralph Stedman, and others. We will also explore the legacy of New Journalism through some of today's most popular forms: literary nonfiction, longform journalism, and the streaming Netflix documentary film/series. Our exploration of what one critic has called the "New New Journalism" will include texts by Michael Lewis, Matt Taibbi, Wes Lowery, and more, before we turn to consider the possible futures of "fake/news" through the dystopic cyber-punk comic "Transmetropolitan," by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson.

As we consider these problems and analyze these texts, we will develop your proficiency in expository and argumentative writing and academic research. Three formal papers are required: a diagnostic essay; a midterm essay; and a final research paper. In addition to these papers, in-class writing, workshops, presentations, participation, and full attendance are also required to earn a passing grade.

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