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Jonathan Fitzgerald

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I’m currently working on my dissertation, titled “Setting the Record Straight: Women Literary Journalists Writing Against the Mainstream,” which aims to restore forgotten or underrepresented women literary journalists from the nineteenth century, and to illustrate how their sentimental style and political voice has been carried on by women writers throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In so doing, I emphasize the great capacity of these writers, past and present, to bring to life stories of women who are often ignored or reduced to two-dimensional caricatures in mainstream journalism and literature. Ultimately, my project seeks to claim literary journalism as an object of literary study and to broaden the field by making it more representative of the writers who, over the past 200 years, have told true stories in an effort to narrow the gap between the subjectivities of writer, subject, and audience.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” writes Joan Didion in her 1979 masterpiece of literary journalism, The White Album. For as long there have been humans, we’ve told stories. We communicate through narrative—it’s how we understand ourselves and our culture, and how we share that understanding with others. I’ve always been attracted to the humanities for the value the various disciplines place on stories. Historians tell stories to help us remember where we’ve been and, hopefully, so that we can learn from those stories and avoid remaking the mistakes of our past. Literary scholars plumb stories for greater insight into the human condition, to enable us to learn more about ourselves and others. Political scientists and law scholars see in the stories of the past answers for the future. In all these ways, and more, the stories we tell ourselves sustain us, as individuals, and as communities.

My work is, by nature, interdisciplinary and as such I look forward to collaborating with scholars from across disciplines to add their valuable insight to my project and, hopefully, so that my experience and expertise might add to their work as well. Further, this year’s theme “Whose Story?” could not be more timely. I feel confident that by reading each other’s work and through discussions and public presentations the fellows might engage the community and work toward a broader sense of how the breakdown of shared narratives and “imagined communities” plays out in our fields. I hope, too, that we can begin to imagine ways to better work against this fracturing in an effort to welcome as many voices, as many stories, to the table as possible.


Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is a PhD candidate in the English Department at Northeastern University. His research fields include literary journalism, nineteenth and twentieth century American nonfiction, and digital humanities. Fitzgerald’s in-progress dissertation aims to restore forgotten or underrepresented women literary journalists from the nineteenth century, and to illustrate how their sentimental style and political voice has been carried on by women writers throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In so doing, it emphasizes the great capacity of these writers, past and present, to bring to life stories of women who are often ignored or reduced to two-dimensional caricatures in mainstream journalism and literature.

Before enrolling at Northeastern, Fitzgerald worked as a writing instructor and freelance journalist, with articles and essays appearing in publications such as The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and others. In 2013, Bondfire Books published his short ebook titled Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better.

Published On: April 26, 2017