Chiara Scarlato
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‘They remain just bodies’
On pornography in David Foster Wallace (1989–2006)
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David Foster Wallace was deeply involved in a tricky and vexed research on pornography from 1989, as the recurrence of this theme in several non-fiction essays, brief stories, novels, interviews, and archival documents makes clear. The analysis of pornography in Wallace’s oeuvre offers the opportunity both to further explore his commitment to other fundamental topics – such as the overlap between addiction and entertainment – and to understand the significance of this theme in his overall literary project. Thus, employing a chronological approach, the chapter focuses on some published writings and unpublished documents in the period which runs from 1989 to 2006. The chapter argues that Wallace mobilized the paradox of pornography – which he understood as the erotic engagement of the viewers and the denial of any form of relationship among viewers and performers – in order to show that there was another way to experience intimacy through an aesthetic practice, namely the act of reading which, as he often stressed, is characterized by a distinctive and powerful conversation between author and reader.

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