Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Judith Lewin

Second Advisor

Jim McCord

Third Advisor

Jordan Smith




comparative literature, journalism, writer, author, prose


This thesis explores the works of Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, and Tom Wolfe, a group of writers most often defined as the “New Journalists” for their untraditional blending of fictional techniques with reportage. I refer primarily to three texts: Mailer’s The Armies of the Night, Didion’s The White Album, and Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and then go on to analyze the authors’ later careers through a study of their more recent essays and essay collections. I examine the ways in which these three authors break conventions of traditional journalism, most notably through their rejection of ethical boundaries, the varying level of “truth” or authenticity in their works, and their use of blurred genre. Through close readings of my three primary texts, I reveal how each author counters traditional journalism through a focus on the self. I conceptualize each writer’s focus through the lens of different disciplines: Didion as philosopher, Mailer as memoirist, and Wolfe as social psychologist. These distinctive authorial roles provide a background for a discussion of each writer’s later New Journalistic works. I locate their writing in the context of both the New Journalism movement, characterized by the 1960s and 1970s, as well as in later decades, thereby asserting that the movement is characterized by authorial presence rather than by time period. In this way, I reveal that the New Journalism movement did not conclude, but rather, has persisted through the later careers of each author.