Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Gonzo Eternal enters the recent surge in scholarly attention to the work of Hunter S. Thompson and his practice of Gonzo journalism by examining the growing conflict between the dominant view of Gonzo journalism as Thompson’s unique and proprietary style, and the relatively new trend toward an understanding of Gonzo as a continuum of literary practice that both predates Thompson and continues to adapt and evolve beyond his death in 2005. I contend that this problem is fundamentally one of definition, and that the continued growth of the field depends on a reassessment of Thompson that reframes him from Gonzo metonym to a figure that illuminates an otherwise indistinct continuum of style, methodology, and philosophical approach to writing. It is this conflict of definition to which I address the centerpiece of my dissertation: a comprehensive annotated variorum of Thompson’s seminal Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. The variorum compares differences across three versions of the text: the 1972 Random House book; the original two-part 1971 Rolling Stone publication; and a fair-copy typescript of the first 6,000 words, which is presently the earliest version of any portion of the text known to scholarship. The variorum is presented with some five hundred annotations that draw on academic, private, and nontraditional archives to cross-reference virtually all of the events, quotations, and references that appear in the text. Collectively, the annotations preserves something of the historical moment of the text’s initial publication. Individually, they explicate pieces of the text with unprecedented granularity, in ways that yield new understandings of — and, occasionally, extraordinary revelations about — the historical details, coincidences, and curiosities woven into the text. Most importantly, they offer new insights into Thompson’s methodology and Gonzo practice at a transformative moment in his career: a critical step in addressing questions of definition. Gonzo Eternal relies on on the work of William Stephenson, Matthew Winston, Kevin T. McEneaney, Robert Alexander & Christine Isager, Tim Denevi, Peter Richardson, and others whose work collectively ushers in a new era in the study of Thompson and Gonzo journalism. My intervention seeks to lay further stable groundwork for future study that enriches both the understanding of Thompson’s praxis as well as better define elements of a form that actively resists dissection and classification. I conclude Gonzo Eternal with an appraisal, drawing on Deleuze and Guattari, of Thompson as a minor literature, which construes Thompson as the principle which illuminates a thread of literary practice both historical and ongoing, and rejects the notion that scholarly interrogation of the Thompson/Gonzo monad somehow abrogates Thompson’s importance to the study of Gonzo. Finally, I conclude Gonzo Eternal with a reflection on the unique pedagogical challenges of teaching Gonzo in the writing classroom. As the burgeoning field continues to mature, Gonzo Eternal resists the collapse into oversimplification represented by the Thompson/Gonzo metonym, and situates itself to offer valuable new insights into both Thompson’s work and the future of Gonzo journalism.
Available for download on Saturday, April 27, 2024