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Chronicling Trauma Journalists and Writers on Violence and Loss by Doug Underwood

Chronicling Trauma Journalists and Writers on Violence and Loss

Part of the History of Communication Series


Chronicling Trauma Journalists and Writers on Violence and Loss by Doug Underwood

To attract readers, journalists have long trafficked in the causes of trauma--crime, violence, warfare--as well as psychological profiling of deviance and aberrational personalities. Novelists, in turn, have explored these same subjects in developing their characters and by borrowing from their own traumatic life stories to shape the themes and psychological terrain of their fiction. In this book, Doug Underwood offers a conceptual and historical framework for comprehending the impact of trauma and violence in the careers and the writings of important journalist-literary figures in the United States and British Isles from the early 1700s to today. Grounded in the latest research in the fields of trauma studies, literary biography, and the history of journalism, this study draws upon the lively and sometimes breathtaking accounts of popular writers such as Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Graham Greene, and Truman Capote, exploring the role that trauma has played in shaping their literary works. Underwood notes that the influence of traumatic experience upon journalistic literature is being reshaped by a number of factors, including news media trends, the advance of the Internet, the changing nature of the journalism profession, the proliferation of psychoactive drugs, and journalists' greater self-awareness of the impact of trauma in their work. The most extensive scholarly examination of the role that trauma has played in the shaping of our journalistic and literary heritage, Chronicling Trauma: Journalists and Writers on Violence and Loss discusses more than a hundred writers whose works have won them fame, even at the price of their health, their families, and their lives.


A beautifully interdisciplinary work that carves out its own frontier and adds a great deal to existing literature. I have never seen a book on a similar topic that is so readable, accessible, and vast in scope as this one.

--Jan Whitt, author of Women in American Journalism: A New History An intriguing and impressive contribution that will inspire considerable thought. It is well written and contains interesting information.

--Nancy Roberts, coeditor of The Press and America: An Interpretive History of the Mass Media

Underwood rightly asks whether and how changing journalistic and literary production (the disappearing newsroom, the increasingly micro-technology we use to read and communicate, the changing nature of the printed word itself) might be altering the narration and consumption of trauma. --H-Net Reviews Fascinating. . . . Will make you look at some of your favorite authors-from Twain to Hemingway, Dickens to Defoe-in a fresh light. --American Journalism

One of the strengths of Underwood's approach . . . is his ability to interweave these traumatic histories into a seamless and compelling narrative of human experience. --Media International Australia

About the Author

Doug Underwood is a professor of communication at the University of Washington. He is the author of four books, including From Yahweh to Yahoo!: The Religious Roots of the Secular Press.

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Book Info

Publication date

14th September 2011


Doug Underwood

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University of Illinois Press


256 pages


Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900
Literary studies: from c 1900 -
Press & journalism



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