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Gonzo Text

Disentangling Meaning in Hunter S. Thompson’s Journalism


Matthew Winston

Hunter Thompson’s writing is widely read and studied, yet as a methodology and body of work his Gonzo journalism has not been the subject of much critical or theoretical examination. This book fills the gap by constructing a coherent theoretical framework around Gonzo journalism.
Drawing on theories of subjectivity and authorship from Derrida, Foucault and Barthes, key themes of Gonzo journalism are considered, including edgework, representations of drug use, ideas of professional objectivity in political journalism, sports in American culture and ‘the death of the American Dream’. It is considered in wider social, political and historical contexts and in terms of boundaries of reportable experience and of objectivity and/or journalism.
Matthew Winston’s study provides a critical commentary and a theoretical exploration of how Gonzo can be read as destabilising conventional ideas of journalism itself, in its peculiarly unclassifiable nature.
This book is designed to be read by postgraduates and scholars in journalism, cultural studies and media and communication. It is also suitable as an undergraduate text dealing with journalism theory, literary journalism, sports journalism, the New Journalism and the wider historical contexts of American journalism.
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Chapter One: A Pompous Contradiction in Terms

← 18 | 19 → • Chapter One •


THE primary focus of this inquiry is, as I have intimated, to approach an understanding of the meaning of the concept called ‘Gonzo journalism’. I have argued for the importance of theories of myth and of the role of the author in formulating this understanding. This study also requires the inclusion of theoretical explanations not only of the intrinsic nature of Gonzo journalism, which would begin with its definition as a category of communicative practice, but also of how this practice fits into wider discourses, socio-politically speaking as well as culturally, in terms of writing, of literature, and of journalism. In the examination of Thompson’s writing practice, I have made reference to the implications of Gonzo journalism being considered as journalism, in terms of the possible place of the author in journalism, as opposed to her place in fiction, within theories of the Text. This aspect of Thompson-as-author, however, barely begins to scratch the surface of the full theoretical implications of considering Gonzo journalism in terms of discourses surrounding the idea(s) of journalism itself.

One key aspect of the relationship between Gonzo journalism and theories of journalism is Gonzo’s problematic relationship with the traditional opposition, within journalism, of objectivity versus subjectivity. This relationship itself, as I will show (see especially Chapter Two), has implications in terms of the opposition of fiction and non-fiction, but those implications arise first from the consideration of Gonzo journalism as situated within the category of ‘journalism’. In my preliminary considerations of the...

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