Deakin University

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To ‘shift into the eye-sockets of the people in the story’: teaching magazine feature writing through literary journalism

journal contribution
posted on 2014-04-01, 00:00 authored by Jennifer MartinJennifer Martin, C Lee
In a postgraduate writing subject in a media and communications program, we seek to teach a type of writing that – we argue – can compete successfully for readers’ attention in today’s 360-degree media environment. In order to meet this challenge, we focus on literary/narrative feature writing, most commonly found in Australia and elsewhere in magazines, and in the magazine supplements of mainstream newspapers. In teaching this type of writing, we examine both its microstructure and macrostructure. At the macrostructural level, we commence with the historical context of literary journalism and feature story writing, focussing especially on the major influence of the New Journalism and practitioners such as Tom Wolfe; alongside this we review the argument that the ‘storytelling’ structure is a form to which humans respond innately, a knowledge of which can aid effective media writing in general, and magazine feature stories in particular, and to this end we demonstrate the type of textual analyses that form part of our pedagogical approach. At the microstructural level, we examine the employment of narrative perspective in order to engage readers in specific ways; this aligns to some extent with Wolfe’s ‘device’ of ‘point of view’, which he considered crucial in order to ‘grab the reader a few seconds longer’ (Wolfe 1973: 18). Another related aspect which, Wolfe argued, is essential in attracting and involving readers is filtering descriptions through the ‘eye sockets’ (Wolfe 1973: 18) of people in his features. Following Wolfe, we argue that this type of literary feature yields a wealth of engaging information unparalleled in other media writing.












Publication classification

C Journal article, C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

[2014, Australian Association of Writing Programs]


Special Issue 25: Australasian magazines: new perspectives on writing and publishing


Australian Association of Writing Programs