Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor H. John Ferns
There is an inherent risk in studying contemporary fiction. Serious questions form around issues of an author's longevity and legacy, a work's merit and its endurance for later scholarship, and the varieties of current critical reception and methodology against the shifts to come. The attendant difficulty of assessing and analyzing a work before an industry of critical reception has formed also presents challenges. David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (1996) represents these challenges, and much more; it is at once an encyclopedic novel of 1079 pages, full of both liberal arts and scientific erudition, and an encomium to an apocalyptic end of late millennial American culture. The novel is highly allegorical and operates with three crucial subtexts, in addition to the standard diegetic narrative. In this study, I present three different, though not mutually exlusive, interpretations of this novel, a novel that has presented interpretive difficulties to scholars of contemporary fiction. In Part One, I survey and compare Wallace's aesthetic with the radical, yet self-contained, aesthetic of the poet, G.M. Hopkins; Part Two examines the integral concept of mediation and explores the subtext of the return of the dead author-the novel operates, in part, as a rejoinder to the death-of-the-author critical impasse; Part Three is primarily comparative and analyzes Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (1880). Wallace has rewritten (or reimagined) Dostoevsky's novel and translated it into a contemporary context and idiom as a remedy for postmodern American solipsism.
Jacobs, John Timothy, "The Eschatological Imagination: Mediating David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest" (2003). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 827.