Carnegie Mellon University

The Fortified Compound: New Journalism and the New Right

Author: Christopher Jeremy Taylor
Degree: Ph.D. in Literary and Cultural Studies, Carnegie Mellon University, 2011

New Journalism is a genre of narrative nonfiction that came to public prominence in the mid-1960s and largely disappeared from view around 1980.  Because of the era in which it flourished, and because several of its practitioners are closely associated with the sixties counterculture, the vast majority of commentators on New Journalism read it as a New Left phenomenon.  Broadly speaking, commentators have tended to see its formal experimentation as part of a larger cultural experiment with new modes of personal behaviour, political organization, and cultural expression; that is to say, New Journalism is seen as one more example of the upheavals usually signified by hippies, antiwar protesters, and rock music festivals.

I argue that, while the this reading has much to recommend it, in order fully to account for New Journalism, the genre needs also to be read in the context of what John A. Andrew III calls “the other side of the sixties,” the invigoration of American conservatism and the rise of the New Right.  The ideological shifts of the sixties and seventies gave rise to much which was progressive and laudable, but also much that was troubling and reactionary.  The sixties, after all, were the decade of the sexual revolution, but also of the political birth of Ronald Reagan.  While some New Journalists were committed to the best of the New Left’s politics, they were also men and women of their time, caught in the political and cultural assumptions of their era.  In order fully to account for the books they wrote, these texts need to be seen as products of an ideological tension between certain leftist impulses and the pull of an emergent New Right.