I tried to read Infinite Jest three or four times and never cracked it Since , Wallace Studies has become a serious yet still emergent field in the academy. So the question then becomes, if any of what I and others are claiming is even half true: Wallace published his first novel, The Broom of the System , while still an undergraduate at Amherst College in This was followed in by a short story collection, Girl with Curious Hair, and in by a non-fiction text, Signifying Rappers. In , Wallace published Infinite Jest , which made him something of a poster child for the grunge generation Max There is then a four-year break until the appearance in of a non-fiction work on mathematics, Everything and More , a third short story collection, Oblivion , in and finally, in , a second non-fiction book, Consider the Lobster.
The texts that make up Wallace Studies so far are becoming more and more difficult to keep track off. Then, in , Boswell and Stephen J.
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David Foster Wallace and Philosophy. Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace have also appeared. This nexus, Kelly goes on to explain, is largely concerned with the idea that we examine Wallace as an author primarily motivated by the notion of moving beyond what he saw as the confines of postmodernism There were also papers given at both these conferences discussing Wallace and Situationism, Wallace and autism, Wallace and gender and a particularly interesting paper on how we have constructed ideas around this writer from the paratexts attached to his work.
Kelly himself gave the closing address in Paris, and in it he strongly suggested that Wallace Studies — largely through what he had encountered at the conference — was beginning to expand in a number of exciting new directions.
The role of the reader of Wallace will be to take up these conversations, and to honour the dialogic quality Wallace strove for by developing new dialogues with his work. It is fair to say, in conclusion, that Wallace Studies has begun in just this mode, and the conversations between the writer and his readers look set to be many, lengthy, and perhaps even infinite From these utterances, I posit that there is no reason that a thorough examination of how we might teach Wallace in the classroom should not be a part of these new conversations that Kelly and others are telling us we can and should be having with Wallace.
The works themselves, as well as commentary surrounding them, demonstrated above, are certainly plentiful enough. I wanted to examine the teaching of Wallace as an intervention and call it by this name due mainly to the fact that it so rarely happens. There are several possible reasons: I agree wholeheartedly with Hering, though, cited above, that a way needs to be found to get Wallace into the academy, and that a world where this writer is a household name would be a decidedly better place.
There is perhaps no other writer that inserts himself into his texts more than Wallace. What is more, he manages to do so while retaining the academic rigour of his essays and the high literary status of his fiction. For the most part it thrills my first year undergraduates to see that such possibilities for healthy? It would be disingenuous to suggest that, by the end of each semester, every student in my classes are Wallace converts.
The point here is that what we choose to pay attention to takes constant work, lest the most obvious things in our lives become the most transparent, a notion not unrelated to the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. Eager-eyed students about to make their way in the world appear to relate meaningfully to this sentiment that it is going to take work to remain cognizant of things that truly matter.
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Once again, I would not be telling the truth if I said there was never a dry eye in the house after "This is Water", but I can sincerely state that there are not that many. Another of my Wallace students became a devotee of all things to do with the author and skilfully analyzed his canonicity in a creative writing major assignment for which he was given a surprisingly stellar mark.
I have utilized them as learning tools in subjects as diverse as Reading Space and Place, Textual Crossings concerned with literary adaptations and Developing a Writing Project. This panel is also hopefully a precursor to my university holding the first ever Australian Wallace conference in late These include extraordinarily intricate and playful and erudite course guides, reading lists and pop quizzes Wallace gave his students. What does this mean in a post-postmodern world, if such a thing even exists? Furthermore, the sheer amount of the annotations on show in the books he marked suggests to me an engagement unprecedented in any teacher I have ever seen, as is the effort he put into the course guides and descriptions I saw at the Ransom Centre.
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An interesting morsel I gleaned from the teaching materials chapter in the Reader is that, according to his mother, Wallace would read every piece of undergraduate writing he marked three times, each time using a different coloured pen to make what would obviously end up amounting to a very large number of comments. From even the most cursory examination of his teaching materials, it becomes clear that Wallace is attempting to include his everyday job of education in this list of tasks that deserve serious, sustained attention. In this, it is axiomatic but — just as Wallace suggests with his fascination for the quotidian — bears repeating nonetheless, we teachers could all learn a thing or two.
Despite this, one of the things I love about teaching is that sense of connectedness I feel with some of my students. There is nothing quite like that moment when that light bulb first turns on above that young head, or a scan of the sea of faces looking down at their mobile phones reveals one, maybe two, staring at their teacher with rapt attention.
It is not difficult to make the case that few practitioners in the recent history of literature have been as searching, as yearning or as open in their desire that their work should heal as Wallace. His premeditated aspiration that his written words might act effectively as the beginnings of community and thus a curative force for loneliness — a malaise he saw as the key one of the postmodern world — is evident from interviews he gave, the scholarship surrounding his work and also from the texts themselves.
But he also went on to add, in the same interview:. If you operate, which most of us do, from the premise that there are things about the contemporary U. The other half is to dramatize the fact that we still are human beings, now. Or can be Burn Who better to turn to for an answer to that question than a writer so openly, even ostentatiously, concerned with these matters?
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Interestingly, it is only writing, not the other arts, that Pennebaker claims has these restorative effects:. Dance, music, and art therapists, for example, assume the expression of emotion through nonverbal means is therapeutic. It should be noted, however, that traditional research on catharsis or the venting of emotions has failed to support the clinical value of emotional expression in the absence of cognitive processing… The mere expression of trauma is not sufficient to bring about long-term physiological changes.
Health gains appear to require translating experiences into language… [T]he act of converting emotions into words changes the way the person organizes and thinks about the trauma… By integrating thoughts and feelings, then, the person can more easily construct a coherent narrative of the experience. Once formed, the event can be summarized, stored, and forgotten more efficiently And writing, Pennebaker goes on to claim, is always performed with the idea of community in mind:.
Telling a story implies that there are other people who can listen to it… the social dynamics of writing… Is it possible that writing can bring about a richer connection between the storytellers and their social networks? Does the child who writes about a traumatic experience in the classroom subsequently make more friends? Then he had mostly diagnosed a disease; now he was giving a model for the cure… It proposed a treatment, answering a need that Wallace saw perhaps better than any other writer… It spoke of the imminence of collapse and the possibility that one can emerge stronger from that collapse… How to live meaningfully in the present.
There is a generosity to the world created by this 1,page novel. The book is redemptive, as modern novels rarely are As teachers, with Wallace along for the ride, I think we can be generous, too, in the way that Max is saying Infinite Jest is generous. I think that we can be not entirely disinterested in our students' survival, beyond the merely academic, and I think that teaching, too, can be redemptive, as modern teaching, sadly, so rarely is.
Since an ineluctable part of being human is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of generalization of suffering. Then we get into a lengthy description of Meredith Rand. She usually comes only if her husband is working or occupied. She gets a ride home from Beth Rath unless her husband is coming to pick her up which he does often.
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She is wrist-bitingly attractive and has the effect on men as to make them pretty much useless when it come to talking to her. The men become very self-conscious around her examples are very funny and affect Meredith differently. While the women react either by shrinking in her presence like Enid Welch and Rachel Robbie Towne or with aggressive sighs and departures like Harriet Candelaria. Only Shane Drinion seems unaffected by her. He seems to be possibly the dullest human being currently alive. He sits quietly and self-contained, hand around his drink, observing without comment.
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He is expressionless except to respond to a joke not told to him by smiling briefly. But his expressionlessness is not catatonic, he watches the speaker very carefully, giving his complete attention. With that setup, we see that Meredith Rand and Mr. X are alone at a table together.
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Their initial small talk shows how forced and literal Mr. She says that he interests her. He feels some what asexual, and is not embarrassed by this. Interestingly Meredith Rand outranks Drinion. She reveals that she was always aware of her prettiness, and that she was one of the foxes at her Catholic high school. There is a footnote with an asterisk rather than a number, which is unusual that talks about how pretty Rand was even when talking about this subject.
This makes me wonder who the narrator is meant to be. She says that he has cardiomyopathy, and that he had it when she first met him when she was The sad story lasts for the bulk of this section some 40 pages. She was at Zeller, a mental health center, for three and a half weeks because she was a cutter. She says she hated the doctors there because they were all more interested in the case than in you…in solving the problem, rather than helping the person.
At some point as the story grows more intense, Drinion begins to float off of his chair.
This is the supernatural aspect of the story that is told so matter of factly. She thinks that maybe he is sitting up straighter, but he is definitely floating. One night someone comes into the office and sees Drinion floating upside down over his desk with his eyes glued to a complex return, Drinion himself unaware of the levitating thing by definition, since it is only when his attention is completely on something else that the levitation happens She finally gets to her husband to be, Ed Rand. He worked on the floor dressed in a white staff coat and as sweater. Although he was more like a security guard, he picked certain people and made it a point to talk to them, and he was hard to resist.
He started talking to her in the pink room Baker-Miller pink because pink was determined to be soothing. He would talk to her about herself. Drinion asks if that made her mad, but she says that everything he said was right—he said stuff about her that nobody else knew. Drinion assumes that this is why she fell for the man, because he comforted her.
So she would often be left by herself for a while. Eventually people started noticing how much time they were spending together and he got in a bit of trouble. But she really started to trust him, to care for him. Except when his solution was that she needed simply to grow up. That she was immature. She was pissed by that answer. During he end of the story she builds up this into a major moment of panic: And as Drinion asks if they were able to see each other after she was let out, the air totally comes crashing out of the story.
They take me home.
His apartment building was like ten minutes from my house. And I feel like DFW really empathized with people like this.
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