Naturalism, the new journalism, and the tradition of the modern American fact-based homicide novel

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lana Ann Whited (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Keith Cushman

Abstract: With the 1965 publication of In Cold Blood, Truman Capote announced the creation of a new literary genre: the "nonfiction novel." Because Capote's book inspired a succession of "copycats," many critics have traced a genre from it. But Capote's book is the culmination, not the commencement, of using fictional techniques to write about real murder cases. Capote's deterministic treatment of the protagonist, his use of reporting techniques, and his focus on the murderers (rather than the victims, police, or plot) reveal the book's Naturalistic roots. In Cold Blood's earliest ancestors in American literature are Frank Norris's McTeague and Theodore Dreiser' s An American Tragedy. American Naturalists such as Norris and Dreiser were directly influenced by Emile Zola and the natural philosophy of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer. For generations, Naturalism influenced authors of fact-based homicide novels, among them William Faulkner (Light in August), James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice), Richard Wright (Native Son), and Meyer Levin (Compulsion). The writer of the fact-based homicide novel characterizes the killer in such a way that the reader understands the circumstances which led to the crime and sympathizes with the protagonist.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1993
Homicide in literature
Nonfiction novel
Journalism $z United States
Naturalism in literature

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