Literary Criticism

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David Foster Wallace

Presences of the Other

Beatrice Pire is associate professor of American literature at University of Sorbonne-Nouvelle in Paris. She is the author Hart Crane, l'Ame extravagante, numerous articles on contemporary American fiction (Jonathan Franzen, Rick Moody, Philip Roth) and book reviews and profiles in the French press (le Monde, le Magazine litteraire).
Assistant professor of American literature at Sorbonne-Nouvelle University (Paris III),

Pierre-Louis Patoine is the author Corps/texte (ENS Editions, 2015). He has published articles on contemporary American literature, biosemiotics and literary neuroaesthetics. He is co-director of the [Science/Literature] research group at Paris III and co-editor of the online journal Epistemocritique.

Why is David Foster Wallace so widely read? Why does his fiction and non-fiction continue to raise enthusiasm among an ever-growing variety of readers of all ages and backgrounds not only in the English-speaking countries but all over the world, while describing all the malcontents, dead ends and solipsistic tendencies of contemporary civilization? Presences of the Other counteracts the vision of Wallace’s postmodern oeuvre as selfishly self-absorbed, narcissistic or confining and attempts to answer the question of its appeal by addressing it as ‘an open work’, following Umberto Eco’s definition of great texts. Epitomized in the missing questions of Brief Interviews; in the endnotes of Infinite Jest that entice readers into fertile wanderings; or in The Pale King demands for active editing and creative involvement, DFW’s paradoxically difficult and impenetrable work opens up and allows for limitless interventions and participations. By becoming a playground for interpretation, his work reveals itself as an exercise in care. Indeterminate and inconclusive, constructed on Derridean ‘difference’, DFW’s output testifies to the presence of a liberating symbolic Other; by resisting closure, it promotes both a fundamental reworking of the literary tradition and a compassionate vision of the human condition. Prominent scholars explore varieties of otherness in Wallace’s ‘open work’ by engaging with the dialogue his writing establishes with non-literary discourses such as cinema (French Nouvelle Vague), music (rap, in Signifying Rappers), religion (Buddhism) and philosophy (Wittgenstein). Critical approaches to the author’s protean identity, taste for masquerade and performance, and capacity for metamorphosis and transformation, foreground traces of an otherness that sets out a salutary spiritual potential for the 21st century.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-840-4
Hardback Price: £50.00 / $69.95
Release Date: April 2017
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-920-3
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: February 2018
Page Extent / Format: 176 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


An introduction to David Foster Wallace – Presences of the Other
Béatrice Pire and Pierre-Louis Patoine

Author Here: The Legal Fiction of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King
Marshall Boswell

And Starring David Foster Wallace as Himself: Performance and Persona in The Pale King
Mike Miley

The Seed of Emptiness. Melancholy of The Pale King
Franz Kaltenbeck

David Foster Wallace, The man who suffers and the mind which creates
Hadrien Laroche

The Zen of “Good Old Neon”: David Wallace, Alan Watts, and the Double-Bind of Selfhood
Christopher Kocela

“Hidden in Plain Sight”: Language and the Importance of the Ordinary in Wallace, DeLillo, and Wittgenstein
Allard den Dulk and Anthony Leaker

David Foster Wallace and Music: The Grunge Writer and the Hitherto Criminally Overlooked Importance of Signifying Rappers
Tony McMahon

Infinite Jest and Modern French Film
Z. Bart Thornton

French Usage in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
Laura Kreyder

“By Hirsute Author”: Gender and Communication in the Work and Study of David Foster Wallace
Mary K. Holland


Scholars of literature, film, and other fields examine the work of American writer Wallace (1962–2008). Their topics include author here: the legal fiction of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King; the seed of emptiness: melancholy of The Pale King; language and the importance of the ordinary in Wallace, DeLillo, and Wittgenstein; Wallace and music: the grunge writer and the hitherto criminally overlooked importance of Signifying Rappers, Infinite Jest and modern French film; and gender and communication in the work and study of David Foster Wallace.

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