Looking For and Mostly Finding the Literary In Contemporary American Nonfiction
MetadataShow full item record
Prose style criticism of literary nonfiction has faded from scholarly popularity since a boom in the 1980s. Recent literary criticism of nonfiction has focused on context while neglecting aesthetics, or left the work of style analysis to composition or rhetoric scholars. I examine the work of Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace, and two writers associated with the literary journal n+1, Keith Gessen and Elif Batuman, to demonstrate the way that prose style analysis is a meaningful critical approach that helps define changing nonfiction genres, including online genres. I read Didion's work across her oeuvre to demonstrate the way her prose style shifts subtly over time and between fiction and nonfiction, memoir and literary journalism. I trace the influence of David Foster Wallace's American postmodern forebears on his fictional and nonfictional prose styles, and follow that line of influence to the nonfiction writing of online genres. I conclude by discussing the way that young writers associated with the journal n+1 regard Wallace's influence on their work and the writing of their generation, and examine Gessen and Batuman's prose style on and offline to find the literary in some unlikely locations.