The Howling Fantods

David Foster Wallace News and Resources Since March 97

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Chris Hager's New Thesis Intro

During Infinite Summer earlier this year Chris Hager's Infinite Jest thesis was discussed on the I.S. forums and as a result I got in touch with Chris again. The upshot was that he wrote a new introduction for his thesis, which I then promptly forgot to add to the Fantods! 
Today's post is the first of three over the next few days that will see new content added to the Thesis section of The Howling Fantods:
  • Chris Hager's new Thesis Introduction.
  • Timothy Henry's undergraduate thesis, "The Language of Landscape, Information, and Disturbance: An Existential Look at the Literary Techniques of David Foster Wallace’sInfinite Jest and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road".
  • Zac Farber's, "‘Neurotic and Obsessive’ but ‘Not too Intansigent or Defensive’: Editing David Foster Wallace.
So let's begin with Chris Hager's new introduction for his thesis after the jump.
Last Updated on Monday, 28 December 2009 17:26

Lipsky DFW Bio Cover

David Lipsky's (The Lost Years & Last Days of DFW) DFW bio based on a 5-day trip during the IJ book tour, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, now has a cover image which you can view and pre-order over at
Last Updated on Sunday, 27 December 2009 09:48

DFW Session at MLA Conference

Anyone out there going to this? It looks very interesting.
Lee Konstantinou has posted on his blog about the DFW session he helped to organise at the MLA Convention on the 30th of December:
[...]I want to put in a plug for the special session I helped organize at the upcoming MLA Convention in Philadelphia. If you're around, please stop by "The Legacy of David Foster Wallace," which is at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, December 30th, in Independence Salon I at the Philadelphia Marriott.

We have a distinguished group of panelists including Stephen J. Burn (North Michigan U.), Marshall Boswell (Rhodes C.), Sam Cohen (U. of Missouri, Columbia), John Conley (UMN, Twin Cities), Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Pomona), Mary Holland (SUNY New Paltz), and -- very fortunately -- Wallace's Little, Brown editor, Michael Pietsch.
I'll be talking about how Wallace's interpretation of the role of the avant-garde shaped his literary projects. 
Details were posted to wallace-l earlier in the month (thanks, again, Matt), but somehow I missed repeating them here.

Wednesday, 30 December

612. The Legacy of David Foster Wallace

8:30–9:45 a.m., Independence Salon I, Philadelphia Marriott

A special session

Presiding: Stephen J. Burn, Northern Michigan Univ.

Speakers: Marshall Boswell, Rhodes Coll.; Samuel Cohen, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia; John Conley, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Pomona Coll.; Mary Holland, State Univ. of New York, New Paltz; Lee Konstantinou, Stanford Univ.

Respondent: Michael Pietsch, Little, Brown

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 December 2009 18:56

The Four Projects of Infinite Jest

A really interesting forum post has popped over at the infinite summer forums which has thrown some light on DFW's response to Chris Hager's IJ thesis hosted here at the fantods.

Chris contacted DFW about the thesis and he replied, "IJ's supposed to have four little projects going at one time, and you totally nailed one and part of a second."
In reponse to this over at the infinite summer forums barone.brian writes (possible Infinite Summer Spoilers below):


I just finished the book a few hours ago and have been reeling wildly since. My first thought was to pop over here to see what folks have had to say after reaching the end, which turned out to be a good choice. Over in the thread "Have you finished yet? Because I have and I need to chat!", mitchcalderwood points us to Chris Hager's thesis on IJ, which reportedly comments the importance of the metaphors of the parabola and the tide, of which assertions DFW reportedly said "'IJ's supposed to have four little projects going at one time, and you totally nailed one and part of a second'" (Here I'm quoting mitchcalderwood quoting him (Wallace)).

So, naturally I got to wondering about these alleged "four little projects." In a book as big and all-embracing as IJ, it's hard to think of anything as little, so I sensed little promise in following that lead. What seemed more helpful in tracking down the referent of the "four little projects" statement was concentrating on the word "projects." What if, I thought, with the word "projects" Wallace is referring to motifs or groups of like images or metaphors. In light of the blessing he bestowed on Hager's analysis -- which focuses on two metaphors -- this makes some sort of sense.

After thinking about it a bit and positing what I thought might be the four simultaneous "projects" or motif/metaphor/image groups in IJ, I noticed a pattern that, if even just the tiniest bit true, is mind-blowing in what it reveals about Wallace's all-out awesomeness.

Here goes: The four major motif groups are 1) Consumption/Waste (under which umbrella falls lots of ONAN-related stuff, Hal's roomful's of meat, perhaps all the references to GLAD bags, drug use etc.); 2) Parabolas (lenses, mirrors, tennis lobs, punting, Orin's tumblers, convexity/concavity, AA's 'bottom'); 3) Annular Systems (Annulation, incest, genetics, addiction, one-day-at-a-time, tide, double-triple-quadruple agenting, the choice/freedom double bind even?; 4) Limits and Infinity (Schtitt and the boundaries of the court making the game possible, the - uh - tittle, the Show, mental illness, calculus references all over).

Now, here's the part that really boggled me: the Consumption/Waste idea is a 1:1 correspondence (something in yields something out), what mathematicians call a linear function. The Parabola idea connects, pretty obviously, with parabolas -- now we're looking at x raised to the power of two. Annular Systems are modeled by circles which are given in analytic geometry by equations with both x^2 and y^2. Limits and Infinity, of course, become necessary in order to find the area of shapes under curves like parabolas and three-dimensional projections of circles.

You're probably all sensing how loaded this theory seems to be with connections to DFW's undergraduate work in math, and certainly even the novel itself contains explicit references to math (hello Peemster). Moreover, some evidence -- like DFW's response to Hager's thesis above, or his discussion of "dividing as-if by zero" from the famous Review of Contemporary Fiction interview -- might also point to Wallace's affinity for concepts likes these. I just wonder if an organization this incredibly organic is really at work, or whether I just cooked up something in the excitement of completing this gorgeous, heartbreaking, hilarious, wonderful book that I've imagined wholesale to fit the bill.


[ barone.brian]


I think this is pretty interesting and the 4th motif is completely supported by an essay Greg Carlisle (Elegant Complexity also read his 2009 Liverpool DFW keynote here ) had published in the DFW tribute section of the Sonora Review double issue (55/56) earlier this year.

As I posted in the Infinite Summer thread:

"Greg's essay, 'Wallace's Inifinite Fiction' considers the role of mathematical limits in the narrative structure of Infinite Jest and examines a number of scenes where the complexity seems to behave like a mathematical limit and never gets resolved (as it approaches infinity). It is pretty awesome and worth getting your hands on."
One of the sections of IJ that Greg discusses is the rising action, that never quite makes it to the climax, in Eschaton section. This is one of a number of sections that Greg considers but I don't want to mention any other examples from the essay due to Infinite Summer spoilers.
Last Updated on Sunday, 27 December 2009 07:42

IJ Art Interview

Cody Hoyt, the artist who created Heads Will be Microwaved an artwork based on Infinite Jest (and linked to in the previous post) got in touch to let me know about an interview for the piece as well as some images of its production.
Last Updated on Saturday, 19 December 2009 19:25

Bits and Pieces

Things that have popped up over the past few days:
Infinite Jest inspired art - Heads Will Be Microwaved.
Greg Zimmerman's latest entry over at the New Dork Review of Books is about DFW - That David Foster Wallace Post.
Mark Athitakis’ American Fiction Notes - Finger Flexion Redux.

Sonora Review U of A Tribute Video

UPDATE: Jon emailed to let me know about the new hi-res version of the video. Thanks, Jon!
Jon Weigand has posted a video about the Sonora Review and UA DFW Tribute event from May earlier this year.
It is a fantastic summary of the event with additional interviews and footage from the panel.
(Thanks, Soula)
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 June 2014 01:25

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