The genesis of the Hunter Figure: A study of the dialectic between the biographical and the aesthetic in the early writings of Hunter S. Thompson
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Hunter S. Thompson revolutionised American journalism in the 1970’s with the publication of ‘The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved’, in Scanlan’s Monthly, and ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, in Rolling Stone magazine. Writing in a voice that was sui generis, his heavily subjective prose became known as Gonzo Journalism. For the next four decades he chronicled what he called the ‘Death of the American Dream’, whilst simultaneously building his own legend to mythic proportions. His fictive persona, the Hunter Figure, is central to his entire oeuvre, but to date, the body of critical analysis has largely diminished the role of his persona.This thesis, however, aims to address this critical imbalance by focusing on the origins of the Hunter Figure persona and the ensuing dialectic between the biographical and the aesthetic in the early writings of Hunter S. Thompson. Few other writers in contemporary American Literature have fused their own life and work to such an extent that the lines of differentiation between: author and character; fact and fiction; public image and private self, have become indistinguishable. Unravelling this complex web of interactions is therefore an essential task in order to fully appreciate and understand the primary motivations behind the creation of the Hunter Figure persona and in turn how this persona became the primary driver of the success of Gonzo Journalism.Through a chronological examination of Thompson’s career pre-dating Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), this thesis credits the persona for not only directly leading to the creation of Gonzo Journalism, but also for helping to establish Thompson as both a leading SuperFictionist in contemporary American Literature and a modern-day icon of American Outlaw mythology.
Fear and loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson