Daniel South
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‘This is just my opinion’
Modelling a public sphere in The Pale King
in Reading David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature
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This chapter focuses on the links between The Pale King (2011) and political philosophy. It examines Wallace’s treatment of the notion of the public sphere, with reference to key theorists such as Jürgen Habermas, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Chantal Mouffe. After establishing the central questions at play in discussions of literature and the public sphere, the chapter presents a close reading of Wallace’s final novel to suggest that The Pale King engages with the concept of the public sphere in two important ways. Firstly, Wallace’s novel establishes a critique of neoliberal models of public discourse; and secondly, Wallace proposes an alternative model of being in public, emerging from the affordances of literary aesthetics and form. This chapter engages with philosophical theories of the public sphere to build on important ongoing debates in Wallace studies, debates which seek to highlight a deep and valuable engagement with political philosophy in Wallace’s work.

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