Edited Collection: David Foster Wallace, for Critical Insight series, Salem Press (abstracts due August 15, 2012)

full name / name of organization: 
Mary Holland, SUNY New Paltz
contact email: 

The years since his death in September 2008 have seen an explosion of readerly, critical, and publishing interest in the work of David Foster Wallace. As his readership correspondingly broadens beyond the narrow band of postmodern scholars and metafiction fans who devoured and discussed his work in secluded circles ten years ago, demand also grows for analysis from diverse viewpoints and at all levels of Wallace, his work, his theories of fiction, and his impact on contemporary fiction. Recent and forthcoming conferences, special issues of journals, and critical collections have begun to respond to this demand in Wallace scholarship, as critics converse with each other about how Wallace and his work will be remembered, and how both will help shape our understanding of the postmodern period and of what is growing out of it. What remains to be written, however, is an introduction of Wallace’s work and ideas for next generations of readers and future scholars. By now we meet students coming into their undergraduate studies already having read Infinite Jest, and increasingly teachers at undergraduate and even high school levels incorporate Wallace’s work into their curricula. As part of the Critical Insights series published by Salem Press, this volume aims to address a broad audience that will include not just existing Wallace scholars but also these younger readers, introducing undergraduate and advanced high school students, as well as their teachers, to a variety of contexts and readings of Wallace’s exhilarating ouvre.

Therefore, this volume calls for both essays exploring new territory and those reviewing crucial but well-trod territory in Wallace studies. Essays may focus on a particular work by Wallace or consider his work more broadly from the angle of a particular theme, context, or theoretical approach. _Infinite Jest_ will receive due attention, so essays on a variety of approaches to and aspects of the novel are welcome. But the volume seeks to cover Wallace’s work thoroughly, both novels and short stories, fiction and nonfiction; essays on his early work and on his essays are encouraged. Inquiries concerning needed topics for essays are welcome as well, at hollandm@newpaltz.edu.

Suggested topics include (but are not limited to)

• Wallace’s agenda for fiction and how his fiction does (and/or does not) fulfill that agenda; his criticism of “crank-turners” in late twentieth century postmodern fiction

• Changes in his stylistic, formal, and/or thematic approaches to fulfilling his agenda (for example, between _Brief Interviews_ and _Oblivion_)

• Wallace’s influence on contemporary fiction; Wallace’s conversations with other writers of his time through fiction

• Wallace’s own literary influences; his work in relation to early postmodernists and their work

• Connections between his philosophical studies and philosophy thesis and his fiction; philosophical groundings of his fiction

• His development as a writer, from _Broom_ to _The Pale King_

• His uses of metafiction, formal innovation, and stylistic pyrotechnics

• His uses of metafiction versus realism; how Wallace constructs realism

• The problem of language, of representing truth, reality, sincerity through language; the failures of language; language’s ability to represent and/or overcome the failures of language

• Irony, the problems of irony; irony in contemporary culture; irony as represented and deployed in his fiction

• Empathy and sincerity; the role of irony in creating both

• Contemporary culture as represented and critiqued by
Wallace’s fiction; TV, consumerism, advertising, waste; the perils of contemporary entertainment

• Narcissism, solipsism; the problem of getting outside one’s own head

• Attention and boredom; their relationship to our culture, to the problems of perspective, empathy, knowledge

• Gender relationships; language, gender, and power

• Trauma and how it is rendered in language

• Contexts and readings for one particular novel, short story collection, or short story

• Critical responses to Wallace

Proposal Guidelines and Projected Timeline:

Please send 500-750 word abstracts or completed essays (5,000 words) and a brief c. v. to the volume editor, Mary Holland (hollandm@newpaltz.edu), by August 15, 2012. Notification of acceptance will be sent by August 31, 2012. Completed essays will be due January 31, 2013.

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