Fictions of the Real: Investigative Journalism and the Novel, 1840-1930

Time period: 2018-01-01 to 2021-12-31

Project leader: Stephen Donovan

Other personnel: Matthew Rubery, Matthew Rubery

Funder: Swedish Research Council

Type of award: Project grant

Total fundning: 4 400 000 SEK

“Fictions of the Real” explores the influence of investigative journalism as a literary discourse on the British novel between 1840 and 1930. Investigative journalism in Britain, which was only recently shown to have originated in the 1840s, constituted a continual, if as yet unexamined, context for the novel, from the consolidation of literary realism in the early 1800s to the experimental innovations of high Modernism of the 1920s. It was a uniquely dynamic mode of writing that presupposed a new kind of narrative perspective, one whose author, using disguise in order to cross boundaries of class, gender, and race, simultaneously also became her own subject of representation. As we will show, the incognito nature of this perspective, as well as the growing accessibility of press work to previously marginalized demographics, made investigative journalism a privileged space for the mobilizing of modern subject identities. Drawing on newly digitalized newspaper archives in Britain and Ireland, and formulating a detailed taxonomy of investigative journalism as a literary discourse, “Fictions of the Real” theorizes the ways in which writers of this period drew on these developments in order to take readers of their own novels into unknown fictional terrain. The project, which will run for three years, will result in a co-authored monograph intended for publication with an international academic publisher as well as a series of presentations at specialist conferences.