Guido Baggio
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Solipsism, loneliness, alienation
David Foster Wallace as interpreter of Wittgenstein
in Reading David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature
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The chapter’s aim is threefold. Firstly, by referring to Wallace’s review of Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress and the short story ‘Suicide as a Sort of Present’, it argues that Wallace’s interest in the solipsistic position of the Tractatus and its pathological dramatization in Markson’s novel unveils deep and existential concern. It emphasizes the close link between the reflective and ethical dimensions that, like Wittgenstein, Wallace experienced personally and interlaced in his narrative work. Secondly, the chapter argues that, according to Wallace’s reading of Wittgenstein, the ‘discovery’ that language is something public articulated in the Philosophical Investigations did not eliminate the risk of solipsism. On the contrary, Wallace understood it to eliminate the possibility of contact with the outside world and leave us trapped in language rather than in private thoughts. This idea of language as both a ‘cage’ and a boundary between subject and world can be clearly discerned in Wallace’s first novel, The Broom of the System. Thirdly, drawing from some passages of Infinite Jest, the chapter highlights the close connection in Wallace’s narrative work between solipsism as a metaphysical position and loneliness and alienation as existential drama.

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