Paolo Pitari
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The influence of Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism on David Foster Wallace
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This chapter argues that Wallace’s texts exhibit an outstanding alignment with Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism (1979), both in content and – most significantly – in the logic by which the two authors come to analogous conclusions regarding their central sociological, literary, and philosophical concerns. Despite the excellent work done by Boswell, Holland, and Hering in recent years, the conceptual alliance between Wallace and Lasch remains largely underappreciated, and recognizing this enriches our understanding of the cultural context within which Wallace’s work arose. It also helps us enhance our understanding of Wallace’s relationship with past thinkers, and it reminds us of how much – in perfect coherence with his dialogic philosophy – Wallace allowed himself to be influenced by the work of other intellectuals. Finally, realizing their alignment moves us to acknowledge certain aspects of Wallace’s work that we sometimes run the risk of overlooking; above all, the fact that Wallace’s call to commit to the other was never meant to overshadow his belief in the primacy of individuality. To demonstrate its claims, the chapter also refers to new findings in Wallace’s archival copy of The Culture of Narcissism at the Harry Ransom Center.

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