Literature and Journalism

A Session Sponsored by the South Atlantic American Studies Association


SAMLA 2002
Baltimore, MD

Papers may address work by one of the following writers or any other American writer whose life or work straddles the line between literature and journalism.

John Smith
Benjamin Franklin
Philip Freneau
William Cullen Bryant
A.B. Longstreet
Edgar Allan Poe
Margaret Fuller
Frederick Douglass
Walt Whitman
Rebecca Harding Davis
Mark Twain
William Dean Howells
Joel Chandler Harris
Bret Harte
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Stephen Crane
William Sidney Porter
Theodore Dreiser
Jack London
Upton Sinclair
Ernest Hemingway
Willa Cather
Carl Sandburg
Eugene O'Neill
H.L. Mencken
Richard Wright
Eudora Welty
Truman Capote
Hunter Thompson
Joan Didion
Tom  Wolfe
Janet Cooke
Steven Glass

Updated February 7, 2002
Mark Canada, 2002


A remarkable number of notable American writers dabbled in both literature and journalism.  Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway worked as reporters before making their names in the world of letters.  Stephen Crane straddled the line between the two fields during much of his career.  Truman Capote and Tom Wolfe tried to merge the two fields into something called New Journalism.

The combination should not surprise us.  Literature and journalism, after all, have much in common, as each seeks to capture the human experience in words.  Indeed, it seems quite natural that someone gifted in writing--a Willa Cather, say--should find success in journalism and then parlay this talent into success in literature.  Newspaper staffs are notoriously full of reporters dreaming of writing the Great American Novel.  Still, the connection is also a tricky, even dangerous one.  Writers of novels and short stories are allowed to use both fact and fiction, perhaps finding inspiration in a real person and then massaging the details to make a good story or capture what they see as the "truth."  Reporters, on the other hand, must stick to the facts--whatever the "truth" might be.  At least, that is what readers--and editors--expect of them.  When one crosses the line, as Janet Cooke infamously did in the early 1980s, the repercussions can be devastating.

For its session at the 2002 SAMLA convention in Baltimore, the Southern American Studies Association seeks papers on America's literary journalists.  Papers should explore the intesections of literature and journalism in these writers' life or work.  Possible topics include the following:

  • the influence of a writer's journalistic experience on his or her literary style or subject matter;
  • a writer's use of literary conventions in his or her journalism;
  • motivations to move from one field to the other;
  • the pursuit of "truth" in literature and journalism;
  • the future of literary journalism.

The deadline for proposals is 1 May 2002.  Please send proposals, either in hard copy or electronic form, to Mark Canada at the address below:

Mark Canada
Assistant Professor of English
Department of English, Theatre, and Languages
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Pembroke, NC 28372-1510