Category Archives: David Foster Wallace
Postgraduate English: A Journal and Forum for Postgraduates in English
Durham University’s Postgraduate English is a professionally reviewed journal for postgraduate students of English. We have been publishing postgraduate research biannually since the year 2000. It is published on Open Journal Systems, so all submissions are indexed and locatable through scholarly and library search engines.
We publish full-length scholarly articles on all areas of English literature and related disciplines, peer-reviewed by our editorial board of established academics, and book reviews.
In addition, we also invite reflections on postgraduate teaching and academic careers. They can be added to the Forum section on a related website, including interviews with academics, in which recently appointed academics discuss how they made the transition from Postgraduate to paid academic, and teaching tips and anecdotes. We are also happy to publish details of conferences or colloquia aimed at postgraduates.
No 32 (2016): Spring
Table of Contents
|‘Man is the Measure’: The Individual and the Tribe in Modernist Representations of the Primitive|
|Voli Me Tangere: Touch and Tenderness in the Lady Chatterley Novels|
|Bridging Music and Language in Samuel Beckett’s Ghost Trio and Nacht und Träume|
|Imagined Surfaces: the ‘Undetermined Capacity’ in Henry James|
|Engaging with David Foster Wallace’s Hideous Men|
The end of March marks the beginning of another period of research at the Harry Ransom Center, Austin, working on the David Foster Wallace archive. As the research becomes more focused, the archive materials are whittled down to the stuff that’s really important in terms of relevance to my thesis. What this means is that with each visit, the frantic searching that went on during the very first visit becomes calmer, more structured, which is all good and well as far as the PhD goes, but something’s been lost along the way.
James Joyce, allegedly (but that’s not what’s been lost):
For example, the delight and surprise in finding unexpected bits and pieces seems is likely to occur less. Like pulling out a notebook with FBI evidence tape across its covers, leaving me wondering as to the authenticity of the tape (quite naive like that) and even entering into an email discussion with someone who had requested that the FBI release all data it held on Wallace in the interests of full public disclosure (or something like that). Anyhoo, is something like that ever going to pique my interest again, I wonder?
From my last: “[…] on the forty-five minute bicycle ride home from the train station, the latter part of which involves riding down a few hundred yards of pitch-black, serial-killer kind of country lane.”
Here is said image:
After listening to one of the Infinite Jest @20 book club’s participants disclose that she cannot now brush her teeth without thinking of Infinite Jest‘s Don Gately, I am minded of an association of my own. Riding the final leg of the journey home down this particular path, in the dark, consistently evokes a childhood memory. As a group of 6/7 year olds my friends and I were fascinated with/horrified by tales of the Red Brick Wall – a wall made of red brick that had a path running by it and which surrounded private land next to a heavily forested area (all very secluded and quiet back in the day). During a session of who could tell the scariest story, someone came up with one about the Red Brick Wall. The wall had a small wooden door that was always locked. The tale goes that one night a couple drove their car down the path, it was raining and all that, and the car broke down unexpectedly, close by the door in the wall. The driver got out and thought of knocking on the door and maybe getting some help. It all goes quiet for a time and the passenger gets nervous/anxious about what has happened to the driver. Suddenly, the driver’s head lands upon the bonnet of the car, attached by rope, and at the end of the rope is a stick, and holding the stick is a crazed, disfigured mad-person who intends to do a similar thing to the passenger.
And on the Emma Watson front, still working through the bell hooks book – nothing creepy there.
Just a very quick post as I’m finding it hard to tear myself away from the figure of St. Theresa of Avila, whom I’m reading about because of the reference to Bernini’s sculpture, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. And so this post manifests itself in the aftermath of Reggie Yates’ documentary, more on which here, the second in his series titled Extreme UK (#ExtremeUK), which deals with a certain kind of anti-feminist rhetoric (wryly titled “meninism” by some Twitter users, a term I happen to like, funnily enough).
Should we be surprised at the “disenfranchised,” “disempowered” men speaking such anti-woman (as much as anti-feminist, if we’re being honest) sentiments? After all, it seems to hail from a tradition dating a long way back into our shared human history; in fact, we may pause to consider Paul’s words here: “The women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).
Some doubt Paul’s misogyny, and in some respects that’s really beside the point, for it is in the countless ways in which such words have been used to keep women “in their place” over the centuries that the key issue is to be found – we need only look to St. Theresa herself for a concrete example of this. Anyway, back to the book (Alison Weber’s Theresa of Avila and the Rhetoric of Femininity (which is very good)).
A radio interview with David Foster Wallace’s sister, Amy, hears her tell of DFW wearing his hair in a top-knot and being discouraged to do so by his family, sensitively, so as not to hurt his feelings. Amy’s explanation of why DFW should not be wearing his hair in a top-knot was that it’s kind of the thing that little girls do – I’m paraphrasing here – and that the reason the family had to be so sensitive about breaking this news to him was that he had a problem with feeling that he wasn’t ‘masculine’ enough. But DFW was obviously rocking this look at a time when others weren’t – and fair play to him for that. Doing anything that makes you stand out is kind of tough, and wearing a top-knot sometime in the 80s, I’m guessing from Amy’s recollections, must have been a pretty hard look to pull off for a guy from the Mid-West. Fair enough, you might say, but, what of the current surge in top-knot wearing?
The current trend for top-knot wearing is interesting, and controversial. It doesn’t always work, but don’t knock a person for trying. Anyhoo, here are a couple of links to do with men wearing top-knots – although the New York The AWL feature has lots of pictures of ones worn at the back of the head – surely not a top-knot by its very definition (a top-knot should be worn above the occipital bone, and preferably above the recession, IM humble O).
Life After Television @aaronsw #citizenfour – another collection of personal musings whilst conducting research of the #davidfosterwallace archive at the Harry Ransom Center, UT, Austin, TX (Day Nine)
I’ve been wanting to read, or at least take a look at George Gilder’s book, Life After Television, for a while now. The reason being its inclusion in ‘E Unibus Pluram,’ DFW’s now infamous essay on television and U.S. fiction. LAT is a strange book, part proclamation on future technologies and part advertisement for Fed-Ex (and part anti-Japan rhetoric, oddly), with lots of pictures of Fed-Ex drivers, amongst other stuff, delivering packages in romanticised locations; my favourite being a shot of a Fed-Ex van crossing a bridge in Bruges at 9:23am, taken with the sort of filter that leaves the picture looking like it’s been steeped in milky coffee to give it a warm glow.
Anyhoo, my comment here comes from Gilder’s assertion on p.31 that [Sic]:
The force of microelectronics will blow apart all the monopolies, hierarchies, pyramids, and power grids of established industrial society. It will undermine all totalitarian regimes. Police states cannot endure under the advance of the computer because it increases the powers of the people far faster than the powers of surveillance. All hierarchies will tend to become “heterarchies” – systems in which each individual rules his own domain. In contrast to a hierarchy ruled from the top, a heterarchy is a society of equals under the law.
To wit, DFW leaves a comment in the margins: “And how will law be enforced, you smug prick?” (that made me giggle a bit).
It does make you wonder if the future democracies that seem to have been promised as a by-product of the advent of technological advancement have floundered somewhat. Do we feel that our powers are greater than that of the surveillance society? Do we see an end to totalitarian regimes? Two recent documentaries speak to these questions, but I’m afraid the answers they provide are not all that optimistic.
The first, The Internet’s Own Boy, tells of Aaron Swartz’s (@aaronsw) story. It is almost too sad a tale to be true, but unfortunately it is true, and a young, gifted individual now lies dead while those people who did little to avoid his death, and did much to accelerate it, go about their lives with hardly a care, it would seem.
The second, Citizen Four (#citizenfour), is almost too dark to be true. Whether what Edward Snowden says about the information he has in his possession is true or not, there is a sense, like the sense you get from watching The Internet’s Own Boy, that the ‘freedom of information’ that the Western world prides itself on is not all that free after all.
And here we have pause to consider DFW’s comment and to think, in light of seemingly endless revelations of wrong-doings by institutions that are meant to represent ‘the people’ (by the people; for the people), just how will the law be enforced as we move further along with technologies that are meant to provide us with unseen levels of personal freedom?