Consider David Foster Wallace

Honors 318

Thursday 12:30-3:00pm
Colvin Hall 106A
Professor: Josh Roiland
Office: Dunn Hall 416
Email: joshua.roiland@maine.edu
Phone: 314-550-9156 (cell)
Office Hours: W 12-1pm

Hyperarticulate, plaintive, self-mocking, diffident, overbearing, needy, ironical, almost pathologically self-aware…it was something you instantly recognized even hearing it for the first time. It was — is — the voice in your own head.
     — A.O. Scott [on David Foster Wallace]

Course Description
Upon his death in 2008, critics hailed David Foster Wallace as the best American writer of his generation. Both his fiction and nonfiction altered the landscape of American literature. Wallace wrestled with substantial, abstract topics like consciousness, boredom, addiction, entertainment, and happiness. His philosophy found its most popular expression in his 2005 Kenyon College commencement address where he argued that the real value of a liberal arts education is not that it teaches students “how to think,” but rather that it gives students options for what to think about. In this course, we will think a lot about Wallace, his writing, and his place in popular culture. We’ll read his fiction, journalism, essays, criticism, mathematical treatises, and philosophy. We will discuss the aforementioned themes in Wallace’s work, and discuss what he means to philosophical movements like Postmodernism and the New Sincerity. We’ll discuss the impact his suicide has on the way we read his texts now, and look at Wallace through the lens of literary celebrity. We’ll answer questions like: What does it mean to be ‘conscious’ in America today? How are we entertained and how are we bored? What is the relationship between those two opposite feelings? Is it true, as Wallace contends, that we all worship something? And how does that obeisance relate to addiction?

Required Texts
Stephen J. Burn, ed., Conversations with David Foster Wallace
D.T. Max, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster

Course Requirements

  • Mandatory daily attendance and participation
    • (Completion of all reading and writing assignments): 20%
  • Weekly Wallace Journal: 10%
  • Assignment #1: 15%
  • Assignment #2: 15%
  • Research Paper: 40%

________________________________________________

Reading Schedule[1]

January 21 — Week 1 — Death is Not the End

January 28 — Week 2 — Everything and More

  • David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster” (2003)
  • David Foster Wallace, “Federer: Both Flesh and Not” (2006)
  • David Foster Wallace, “Forever Overhead” (1999)
  • David Foster Wallace, “Authority and American Usage” (2001)
  • David Foster Wallace, “Kenyon College Commencement Speech” (2005)
  • Charlie Rose, Interview with David Foster Wallace (1997)

February 4 — Week 3 — Eliminating the Map

  • David Foster Wallace, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (1993)
  • David Foster Wallace, “The Depressed Person” (1999)
  • David Foster Wallace, “Suicide as a Sort of Present” (1999)
  • David Foster Wallace, “Good Old Neon” (2004)
  • Maria Bustillos, “Inside David Foster Wallace’s Private Self-Help Library” (2011)
  • Mary Karr, “Suicide’s Note: An Annual” (2012)
  • D.T. Max, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (2012) <pp.50-134>

February 11 — Week 4 — Greatly Exaggerated

  • David Foster Wallace, “Little Expressionless Animals”
  • David Foster Wallace, “My Appearance”
  • David Foster Wallace, “Brief Interview, #40”
  • Hugh Kennedy & Geoffrey Polk, “Looking for a Garde of Which to be Avant: An Interview with David Foster Wallace” (1993)
  • Larry McCaffery, “An Expanded Interview with David Foster Wallace” (1993)
  • David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” (1993) 
  • D.T. Max, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (2012) <pp.135-176>

February 18 — Week 5 — The Long Thing

  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996) ∞ <pp.1-135>

February 25 — Week 6 — The Long Thing

  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996) ∞ <pp.135-283>

March 3 — Week 7 — The Long Thing

  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996) ∞ <pp.283-418>

March 10 — Week 8 — Spring Break

  • NO CLASS

March 17 — Week 9 — Spring Break

  • NO CLASS

March 24 — Week 10 — The Long Thing

  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996) ∞ <pp.418-689>

March 31 — Week 11 — The Long Thing

  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996) ∞ <pp.689-845>

April 7 — Week 12 — The Long Thing

  • David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (1996) ∞ <pp.845-981>

April 14 — Week 13 — Just Words

April 21 — Week 14 — I’m Not a Journalist

April 28 — Week 15 — Spiritually Midwestern

  • David Foster Wallace, “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” (1991) 
  • David Foster Wallace, “Getting Away from Already Being Pretty Much Away From It All” (1994)
  • David Foster Wallace, “The View From Mrs. Thompson’s” (2001)
  • David Foster Wallace, The Pale King excerpt (2011)
  • Josh Roiland, “Spiritually Midwestern” (2015)

May 5 — Week 16 — The Rest is Silence

[1] Key for locating readings:
‡ = Consider the Lobster
∞ = Infinite Jest
• = A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,
† = Conversations with David Foster Wallace
= Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
◊ = Google Drive

 

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