Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Glass, Loren

First Committee Member

Valentino, Russell

Second Committee Member

Landon, Brooks

Third Committee Member

Stewart, Garrett

Fourth Committee Member

Stecopoulos, Harry


"The American Tradition of the Literary Interview 1840 - 1956: A Cultural History" is the first study to document the development of the literary interview in the United States. A handful of critics have discussed the literary interview and traced it back to various European cultural traditions; however, I argue that, like the interview, which the British journalist William Stead wrote "was a distinctly American invention," the literary interview was a particularly American form. Drawing on archival research and new readings of primary sources, this project examines the literary interview's systemic growth and formal characteristics between 1842 and 1956. I trace connections among the American press, culture, and literary marketplace to offer an as-yet unwritten history of the literary interview. During Charles Dickens's 1842 North American tour, the first literary interviews were published in written-up, or paragraph form and resembled written snapshots or sketches. As a result of the cult of domesticity and the popular scandals of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, the literary interview developed into a slightly longer and more narrative form that focused on an author's surroundings and living quarters. With the rise of yellow journalism and muckraking reporting during the first decades of the twentieth century, the literary interview became a more investigative and intrusive form; yet at the same time, the first in-depth, literary conversations with American authors were published. During the interwar period, the second wave of "girl reporters" and lady interviews transformed the written-up literary interview into a more nuanced form that exhibited rhetorical and literary flourishes. With the development of the New Yorker profile and the Paris Review interview in the mid-twentieth century, the literary interview branched off into two distinct modes: the profile and the author Q & A. This history of the literary interview offers a model of reading mass media communications in terms of both content and form. In doing so, this project chges the critical frameworks that dismiss the literary interview as ancillary to literature and articulate the importance of interviews, communication, and conversation in American culture.


authorial celebrity, celebrity, creative writing, interview, literary history, literary interview


viii, 227 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 200-227).


Copyright 2013 Sarah Fay