Bibliographical Essay First Draft

Because Infinite Jest is contemporary there is a reasonable amount of criticism to sift through as opposed to something regarding James Joyce so finding a common thread in the “conversation” hasn’t been too arduous. The novel’s theme in the high school sense of the word is about addiction and the criticism really can’t avoid this as the concept of recursive behavior manifests itself in myriad ways. The question or dilemma the novel investigates is how to achieve an awareness of the self in its consumptive state and after achieving awareness how to then rectify the cycle of destructive indulgence. The idea of self possession as opposed to being possessed by the self is never completely answered and it seems to indicate that the notion of autonomy is an “illusion”(Hayles). This illusion is perpetuated by language and it’s “naturalness” as well as the discourse’s structural “narrativity” (Barthes) but this only perpetuates a false autonomy as opposed eradicating the notion itself. What I hope to show is how Wallace proposes that our autonomy is viable through choosing a language that offers the determinate limits that can afford the signifier an ability to communicate with greater ease. The initial alienation required to gain consciousness of systems of language must be followed by a choice of language or system that provides the greatest efficacy. By choosing limits and rendering certain things to “nonsense” (Wittgenstein) a person has effectively chosen the terminus of what will eventually become his chosen compulsions. Essentially you must choose your addictions wisely.

Roland Barthes and S/Z is essential as it questions the “naturalness” of language and how that perpetuates an ultimately false reality. Wallace’s disruption of narratives and dismissal of tying the “knot” with a conventional denouement is how he creates a performative text as Frank Louis Cioffi discusses in his article “An Anguish Becomes a Thing: Narrative as Performance in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.” Alienating the reader is the job of the book to help the reader gain an autonomy from text or in this case narrative. The reader must perform as the author isn’t providing the typical structure that is typically devoured. By creating “windows” to enter the text from at any point it offers the freedom to create an independent plurality and without the specious hierarchy traditional literary realism perpetuates. J.L. Austin’s How to do Things with Words is also prevalent (used by Cioffi as well) as Wallace’s disruption of convention makes the “speech act” harder to complete because the rules are disorderly. The reader is no longer able to perform “felicitously” and this dissolution of literary convention can liberate a reader but not necessarily satisfy one.

Now that the reader is situated at an alienated distance he must find order in the presented windows. This is where Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus and his discussion of language and the limits it sets on reality would come in I suppose. By throwing a chosen “mesh” on a reality the reality becomes limited or manageable. Even the concept of “mesh” implies language gives reality windows to perceive. Success of the autonomous self is contingent on recognition of linguistic convention and the potential to exist adequately with the compulsions the language will then create. To choose a language is to be absorbed by it as a limit of the language inherently changing the limits of the language. The ability to make this choice is the quibble with Hayles article “The Illusion of Autonomy and the Fact of Recursivity: Virtual Ecologies, Entertainment, and “Infinite Jest.” While recursivity is perhaps inevitable it does not diminish the ability to become aware and to then choose. Granted you could argue that in and of itself is its own compulsion of greater system that is simply beyond the greatest of human acuity but then what’s the point so I’ll to go with that my free will is available to me because the future is unknown (Wittgenstein).

Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy is illuminating for Hal Incandenza particularly. Hyper literate and inherently disorderly, Hal’s solipsistic descent juxtaposed with Don Gately’s impending liberation can be directly attributed to the interiorizing of language that Ong discusses as an effect corollary with the shift from oral based cultures to those literate culture. Hal’s lexical density creates confusion as it muddles the limits and create a disorder that is only mollified with clandestine addictive indulgences. Because Hal is saturated with codes and language he is rendered as nonsense to the convention that created the nonsense. Gately’s absolution is his ingratiation to the oral culture of Ennet House where the rules (he himself helps to construct some of these rules) are clearly defined and the system is closed to help render the abuse of substance as “nonsense.” In an ironic twist some of the members of the house are mandated to be there but they typically subvert the “seriousness” (Austin) of the conventions rendering their participation “infelicitous” (Austin).

As I continue to read sources external to Infinite Jest my ideas change and the books I’d like to include continue to change as well. Interpretation is a hard thing to fix and my initial annotated bibliography is probably going to look much different. I’m aware that this is missing any real in depth involvement with articles of criticism but I’ve been working from the broader theoretical works and am hesitant to select as I’m still unsure as to what I want to argue and who the argument should be with. The irony of this is that reading a lot of different things can muddle what I would want to propose. So my concern isn’t so much voice but having something to voice so the words don’t fall hollow. Once something has been hammered out in my head the voice should take care of itself. But its been kinda interesting so far. (This is compelled by the blog and the idea of “first draft” and obviously not going to be part of a “final” prospectus).

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One Response to “Bibliographical Essay First Draft”

  1.    維修 硬 碟 Says:

    維修 硬 碟

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