• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

Article

Brother Journalist: Tom Wolfe and the Serapions

Comparative Literature Studies. 2021. Vol. 58. No. 1. P. ХХ-ХХ.
Kharitonov D.V.

Brother Journalist: Tom Wolfe and the Serapions

 

This paper’s purpose is to analyze a peculiar case of a creative appropriation made possible by a combination of coincidences, readings, and misconceptions during the time Tom Wolfe (1930—2018), future bestselling author, reformer of American journalism, and controversial public intellectual, spent at Yale as a graduate student in the 1950s. He repeatedly confessed to having been influenced by “the Serapion Brothers”; according to him, they were experimental, avant-garde Soviet writers, heirs to French Symbolism, who wrote about the Russian Revolution in a highly unconventional manner. Critics seem to have taken Wolfe’s statements at face value; the far-reaching influence was noted but never looked into.

This influence seems to have stemmed from a source misacknowledged by Wolfe himself (his “Serapions” were, in fact, imagined by him), making his authoritative work resonate with the Russian Modernist tradition and informing his “realistic” theory of New Journalism. Wolfe’s realism is dominated by aesthetic and differs in the way of engaging the reader’s subjectivity from a European tradition that he evokes. It relies on what John C. Hartsock called “the aesthetics of experience”; its effectiveness depends on its artfulness.