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Introduction
David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature
in Reading David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature
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This collection aims to show that David Foster Wallace’s work originates from and functions in the space between philosophy and literature. Indeed, the philosophical dimension of his work is not a mere supplement or decoration, a finishing touch to perfect his literary writing. Nor is it the other way around: a pre-established truth which Wallace sees the literary merely serving to illustrate. Rather Wallace intertwines the two discursive modes in a never-ending process of reciprocal cross-fertilization. In this introductory chapter we first briefly address Wallace’s relation to and career switch between philosophy and literature, in order to argue that, for Wallace, philosophy and literature are co-originating ways of confronting reality: philosophical works, styles, and concepts trigger literary experiences, while literary works, styles, and genres trigger philosophical questioning. Both appear within and amplify each other from the start. Then we outline three aspects in which philosophy and literature both differ and overlap – but never fully dissolving into one another – namely: (1) as activities or practices; (2) with regards to their instruments, i.e. their forms of language and communication; and (3) with regards to their purposes, or the experiences and possible understandings they generate. The work of David Foster Wallace is exemplary of this fruitful cross-pollination. Finally, we outline the chapters in this collection that, organized in three parts – ‘General perspectives’ (Wallace’s aesthetics, interest in performativity, formal choices, sociology, and ethics), ‘Consciousness, self, and others’, and ‘Embodiment, gender, and sexuality’ – represent a multifaceted engagement with the philosophical-literary in-betweenness of Wallace’s oeuvre.

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