Annotated Bibliography

Continuing in the post modern tradition Wallace’s Infinite Jest examines the world as place saturated with information and how this wealth of information is paradoxically meaningless or ironic. This is not new ground as John Barth and Thomas Pynchon among others have done myriad explorations of the conditions of the post modern world. How Wallace differs from the ironic simulations of worlds predicated on systems and hegemony is question the use of the irony typically used to illustrate the era’s disorder as irony has been absorbed by the discourse as Barthes refers to it. So the problem set forth is that as irony has been absorbed and institutionalized (Wallace) it simply becomes another way to restore behavior and part of the ways for a human to perform. I hope to show how Infinite Jest develops this problem as a problem of “reading” and “performing,” specifically in the context of how technological advancement changes how we read and how we exude the interpretations of what we read. Language as performative requires the individual or reader of the world to interpret and restore behavior most beneficial to that person. The dilemma is that as technology grows and offers a variety of ways to manifest addiction it blurs the lines of what to read and how to read it and creates a confusion for the reader by this duplicitous and ultimately specious variety. To combat this recursive behavior a person must sacrifice himself to a language that is “serious” and offers tangible parameters for that person to “perform.” Within these rules the disorder of information can be managed without recourse to addiction. What Wallace, much like Plato in the “Phaedo”, eventually posits in his inconclusive narrative is that technological advancement is going to change the things about us that are what we believe make us most human.

Austin, J.L. How to Do Things with Words. United States. Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Austin’s discussion of language and the need for it be used seriously in order for it sustain meaning as a performative applies to Don Gately’s embracing of the language of Alcoholics Anonymous. Despite questioning the changes the language of the program has created in his life Gately continues to simply restore the behavior the language demands and he finds that just in performing the rituals that there can be a form of salvation even if he may not entirely believe in a tangible source of spirituality. Austin’s open criticism of his own assertions is evident as Alcoholics Anonymous, like any other system, is not closed and it’s rules are subject to the larger tyrannies of circumstance and hegemony. This tension becomes evident in Gately’s refusal any painkillers while recovering from serious injury in the hospital. These drugs are endorsed by doctors and even the other members of the program and Gately’s strict adherence to the accepted language is vulnerable to external forces.

Barthes, Roland. S/Z: An Essay. Trans. Richard Miller. United States: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, Inc., 974. Print.

In treating the classic text as simple a perpetuating force of the “discourse” Barthes exemplifies the messiness of reading and how being unaware of the plurality of text in its representation of verisimilitude is the very source of the “emetic” as Barthes calls it. The naturalness of language is it’s greatest lie. The discourse mimics the recursive nature of addiction as it presents a tension or “knot” that is merely solved. Wallace addresses this by fracturing the text and denying the reader of any clear denouement. By presenting information in “windows” (Barthes) Wallace creates a performative piece of fiction that requires a lot work from the reader as opposed to allowing the discourse to perform the rote activities that it necessitates.

Cioffi, Frank Louis. “‘An Anguish Become Thing’: Narrative as Performance in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.” Narrative 8.2 (2000): 161-81. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 Nov. 2010.

Cioffi deals specifically with the novel as a performance work and discusses the use of end notes and fractured narrative through the lens of performance. He also treats as a piece of horror. This is effective as the novel is dealing with addiction and the crux of addiction is its ability to defend against the abject parts of the self. By making the reader complicit the novel forces you to address the abject without the comforts of a typical narrative.

Derrida, Jacques. Limited, Inc. United States. Northwestern University Press, 1988. Print.

This is Derrida’s response to the idea of the speech-act and he questions the ability of language as something that can ever really transcend pretend into the realm of the serious. As it is iterable it inevitably is a reproduction which makes it on some level always performative. So the question is how can one perform sincerely? And if you can’t then there can never be something as simple as a “speech-act.” As this pertains to the novel, the notion of language taken seriously still subjects even the most noble of attempts to the entropy of language as its own system distinct from the user. This is illustrated in Gately’s time in the hospital as well as Hal’s solipsistic descent. Hal absorbs so many potential ways to perform that he eventually becomes overwhelmed and unable to affect an operative social persona.

Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Mansfield Centre, CT. Martino Publishing, 2010. Print.

Freud deals with the psychology that Barthes references in his approach to the classic text. The illustration of the cyclic behavior of appeasing new tensions is represented by Wallace in a plethora of manifestations. Wallace hopes that through variegated representation the notion of addiction is not relegated to merely drugs and alcohol but that is an intrinsic part of human behavior.

Goerlandt, Iannis. “‘Put the Book Down and Slowly Walk Away’: Irony and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 47.3 (2006): 309-28. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 Nov. 2010.

Irony is a dilemma for Wallace as it is a major tool in his major literary influences but has lost its meaning in its saturated use. Goerlandt examines this use and looks to Infinite Jest as perhaps offering a new version of irony. It’s incessant questioning of irony in (ironically enough) incredibly ironic prose is the source of the question as to where to go with the newly adjusted discourse. The articles involvement with how irony’s iterability reinforces Derrida’s idea that language is always somewhat performative. Goerlandt’s addressing of the notion of power the ironist claims to hold over those immersed in what is being viewed is pertinent in that this power is now defunct as irony is merely part of the growing discourse.

Hayles, N. Katherine. “The Illusion of Autonomy and the Fact of Recursivity: Virtual Ecologies, Entertainment, and Infinite Jest.” New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation 30.3 (1999): 675-97. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 Nov. 2010.

Hayles connects Infinite Jest with simulated communities or “ecologies” to dissolve the notion of autonomy. By dismissing the idea of an independent self Hayles limits the individual as merely a component of a larger whole. If this is the case the only thing for the individual to do so as not to be left behind by an steadily advancing amplification, which Hayles discusses in the context of a swelling right triangle, the individual must find the means to perform and restore the appropriate behaviors. I want to show that this is done with a choice of language and establishing a sense of concrete rules to operate under or as concrete as one can get.

Holland, Mary K. “‘The Art’s Heart’s Purpose’: Braving the Narcissistic Loop of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 47.3 (2006): 218-42. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 14 Nov. 2010.

This article also deals with Wallace’s fight with irony and how he ultimately fails. As I begin my argument I also believe that the choice of language to operate is inevitably vulnerable to the impositions of external forces.

Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy (New Accents). New York: Routledge. 2002. Print.

Technology’s impact on humanity begins with the advent of the alphabet according to Ong and this is only the beginning as each technological advance changes the way we communicate and ultimately how humans absorb these evolutions and change accordingly to continue to remain a viable part of the world. Wallace’s idea of “the entertainment” is only the newest form of what began with the alphabet and the impact of this in the novel terminal.

Plato. Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. United States: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1997. 49-101. Print.

Plato’s worries mirror Wallace’s in that the advent of new technology is dramatically changing the way humans will forever function. His alarm at rhetoric, which is a byproduct of the alphabet, is the same as Wallace’s alarm regarding “the entertainment” and how the new medium is affecting human behavior.

Schechner, Richard. Between Theater & Anthropology. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985. Print.

Schechner has a particularly helpful diagram which appropriately enough is the same as the sign for infinity. He discusses how things are feeding each other in an endless continuum and how this results in behavior that is unconsciously performative. As this regards to the novel it becomes imperative for the “reader” to become conscious of this unconscious performance so as to dissassociate and then examine the available options. By examining the limits represented in the different languages of different systems an individual can potentially manage the disorder of a world with infinite forms of information.

Turner, Victor. From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play. Village Station, New York. PAJ Publications, 1982. Print.

Turner’s work is closely related to Schechner’s but his book deals specifically how ritual seeps into the performance of the everyday. In analyzing the benefits of 12 step programs the correlation between ritual and the everyday is integral. Gately’s ability to transfer the ritual of his community to the everyday is what makes the everyday manageable and this is Hal’s failing as he is unable to take what makes him so prodigious as a tennis player into external communities.

Wallace, David Foster. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. New York, NY. Back Bay Books/ Little, Brown and Company, 1998. Print.

This collection of essays includes Wallace’s examination of television and how the technology has helped to institutionalize irony as well as proffer the examples of accepted versions of the self in the essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction.” By showing how technology absorbed the rebellion of irony by creating a discourse where the accepted codes of the discourse now also exhibited a self-awareness the article (written 6 years before the publication of Infinite Jest) forms the dilemma governing the characters of the novel. The characters are unable to reconcile the performative self with the private self as they seem to be the same thing. To be able to read this as the issue can give the individual a chance at choosing an identity that offers the greatest chance at operating the chaos.

Wallace, David Foster. Infinite Jest. New York, NY. Little Brown. 1996. Print.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. United States: Seven    Treasures Publications, 2009. Print.

The problems of language and how it creates its own confusion are directly confronted by Wittgenstein as he proposes a manner in which the language can be produced to a logic that is capable of clearer communication. Gately finds this in AA and Hal finds this in tennis but this is not capable of any ultimate absolution as it is subject to a greater context as Derrida would argue.

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