Opaque in full transparency - Subjective distance in French political literary journalism

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This thesis investigates the regulation of subjective distance – a key process in literary journalism – within the specific context of contemporary French political literary journalism. It centres on the following research question: “How do journalists regulate the depiction of subjective distance between subject and object in political literary journalism?” I set out to answer this central question by comparing the following two elements: 1) the textual representation of physical and psychological access to the central subject, with ‘narrative distance’ as a conceptual lens to study the relationship between narrator-journalist and political actor; 2) the epistemological inquiry that informed the text, by performing a close reading of paratextual frames (the public peri- and epitext) in order to situate the author-journalist’s epistemic location. These elements were compared to analyse whether or not (political) literary journalists manipulate subjective distance. I used my analytical model on four different book-length works of political literary journalism that each represented a different methodological approach and style of narration: 1) Ça m’emmerde ce truc by Eric Mandonnet and Ludovic Vigogne (2012), a narrative reconstruction that completely relied on reconstructive reporting; 2) Emmanuel Macron, le président inattendu by Nicolas Prissette (2017), a hybrid text with covert narration; 3) L’Élysée selon Hollande by Hervé Asquin (2016), a hybrid text with overt narration; and 4) L’énigmatique monsieur Hollande by Vanessa Schneider (2015), a first-person eyewitness report that was based on sensorial observations and on-the-ground reporting. Results show that there is no singular way in which political literary journalists regulate subjective distance. All authors integrated a variety of narrative techniques that underlined a sense of intimacy for the textual representation of psychological and physical access. Moreover, this thesis demonstrates that narrative manipulation is common and that there was an overall lack of disclosure transparency. It also confirmed that it is indeed difficult to obtain an authentic decrease in subjective distance in political literary journalism, but challenges the assumption that literary journalists have avoided closed-off political subcultures as topics to report on. In addition, this thesis contributed to current scholarship by moving away from Anglo-American case studies and highlighting different cultural practices of the genre. The results will especially be of interest to (political) literary journalists, editors, journalism educators and scholars with overlapping interests, notably in the fields of literary studies, (political) communication studies and (literary) journalism studies. Suggestions for future research include the need for larger corpora and more experimental studies.
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