Fear and Loathing at 50: Five Decades of Hunter S. Thompson and Gonzo Journalism
2022 marks a significant anniversary for the celebrated — and divisive — work of Hunter S. Thompson. His seminal Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas celebrates fifty years since its publication in book form, as do the dispatches from the George McGovern campaign that would later become Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. This panel aims to reexamine Thompson’s body of work and the refractions of his presence as a cultural signifier in popular conception, as well as to consider the viability of the Gonzo form and style as something that could survive — and evolve beyond — its virtually metonymic association with Thompson.
The body of scholarly attention paid to Thompson also enters its fifth decade, though only within the past ten years has academic attention to Thompson begun to increase at an exponential rate. Three major works on Thompson were released in 2018 alone: Eric Shoaf’s Gonzology provided scholars with the most comprehensive bibliography of Thompson-related work to date; Timothy Denevi’s Freak Kingdom examined the political underpinnings of Thompson’s oeuvre; and Alexander & Isager’s Fear and Loathing Worldwide explored the possibility of a transnational, post-Thompson practice of Gonzo journalism. Together, these works span the inherent duality in the study of Thompson and Gonzo: namely, the split impetus to study the work and historical figure of Thompson, and to press forward in the consideration of Gonzo as an evolving form.
The scope of this panel, therefore, is intentionally broad: it welcomes (but does not limit itself to) studies of Thompson’s major texts, his correspondence, his archives, his continuing presence as a popular avatar for the “outlaw” or maverick writer, and the various ways that presence is warped, cartooned, and misappropriated well beyond the valence of the historical author. Interventions and insights into the reception, adaptation, and pedagogical use of Gonzo work in the classroom are also encouraged, as are submissions that engage with possible futures of the Gonzo form: futures into which Thompson is a bridge, but does not impose a strictly delimited array of historical, cultural, national, gendered, political, and similarly narrow markers. Please submit an abstract of 200-300 words via the NeMLA portal and feel free to reach out with any questions to John.Brick@Marquette.edu.