Seeking to Understand the World: Literary Journalism of Vincent Sheean

by Anish Dave (Georgia Southwestern State University )

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This is a wonderful and suitably comprehensive book. It provides the reader with a crystal-clear understanding of both literary journalism and the works of Vincent Sheean. The author has skillfully crafted this book in such a way that even a reader wholly unfamiliar with either topic/subject will still be able to retain interest and follow along. Dr. Dave has analyzed five journalistic books by Vincent Sheean and has ably demonstrated how literary journalism proponents and students/disciples can benefit from further reading Vincent Sheean's works. All of the chapters in the book flow in a neat and streamlined way, and the reader will eagerly go from one chapter to another in possibly one sitting. I applaud the efforts of Dr. Dave to shine a light on Vincent Sheean, who is truly a very important figure in literary journalism. He has done a truly applause-worthy job here.

Prof. Dr. Aditya Simha
University of Wisconsin

Vincent Sheean, a groundbreaking American foreign correspondent and author, is known for reporting from Europe, North Africa, and Asia, writing news reports, articles, and books. A few books and articles have described Vincent Sheean’s life, and briefly discussed his major nonfiction books. However, no book-length study or article has closely examined his nonfiction books. 'Seeking to Understand the World: Literary Journalism of Vincent Sheean', textually analyzes his five nonfiction, journalistic books to examine them for characteristics of literary journalism. Spanning nearly the entirety of his journalistic career, these books include 'Personal History' (1935), 'Not Peace but a Sword' (1939), 'Between the Thunder and the Sun' (1943), 'Lead, Kindly Light' (1949), and 'Nehru: The Years of Power' (1960). Set in different world areas, the books illuminate events as disparate as the Riffian war, the Spanish Civil War, the infamous Munich pact, the Nazi bombing of London, and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Sheean’s books provide an in-depth, personal look at these and related events. This book includes analysis of Sheean’s works, finding that they have several prominent characteristics of literary journalism: stories and scenes, cohesive structure, lifelike characters, vivid description, well-crafted sentences, immersive reporting, among others.

List of Tables and Illustrations

Douglas Unger
University of Nevada, Las Vegas



Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 The Making of the Seeker and His Craft

Chapter 3 Journalism, Writing, and a Passion for People

Chapter 4 Traces of a Time

Chapter 5 A Personal Homage to Gandhi

Chapter 6 In Defense of a Practical Idealist

Chapter 7 Conclusion

Appendix 1: Select Books by Vincent Sheean

Appendix 2: Archival Sources for Vincent Sheean

Appendix 3: Two Pages from Sheean’s Journal, January 21, 1948

Appendix 4: Two Pages from Sheean’s Journal, January 30 and February 6, 1948

Appendix 5: Sheean’s Letter to Ruth Falkenau, a Lifelong Friend, 1927

Works Cited


Dr. Anish Dave is an associate professor of English and director of the writing center at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, GA. He has a Ph.D. in rhetoric and professional communication from Iowa State University and an MFA in creative writing (fiction) from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as 'Research in the Teaching of English and Technical Communication Quarterly'. He teaches professional writing and composition courses to undergraduates.

Literary journalism, literary nonfiction, narrative journalism, reportage, literary reportage, creative reportage, long-form narrative, close reading, textual analysis, immersion writing, journalistic writing, personal journalism, international journalism, foreign correspondent, foreign reporter, memoir, journalistic memoir, biography, Vincent Sheean