Reading David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature

Editors:
Allard den Dulk
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Pia Masiero
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Adriano Ardovino
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In David Foster Wallace’s fiction, long-standing philosophical debates – does language describe the world accurately? can I explain myself to others? what are the values and dangers of self-consciousness? how can I lead a meaningful life? – play a central role. In fact the need to explore these debates as representing urgent problems of contemporary human existence is what motivated Wallace’s ‘occupational switch’ from philosophy to literature.

This volume presents new essays by prominent and promising Wallace scholars that show that Wallace’s work originates in-between philosophy and literature. Its philosophical dimension 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 the literary serves to illustrate. Rather in Wallace the two discursive modes are always already intertwined in a never-ending process of cross-fertilization. This approach constitutes an investigative perspective that allows for a variety of theories and methods to shed light on the constitutive in-betweenness of Wallace’s oeuvre – instead of imposing a preconceived methodology or a theoretical context that univocally homogenizes each single reading. The essays included offer a plurality of interpretations of Wallace’s engagement with philosophy and literature.

Organized in three parts – ‘General perspectives’, ‘Consciousness, self, and others’, and ‘Embodiment, gender, and sexuality’ – this volume breaks new ground: it shows that Wallace’s texts, characters, story-worlds, linguistic and formal choices, plots and concepts are all to be read ‘between’ philosophy and literature, and thus provides a highly valuable contribution to the field of Wallace studies.

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