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Understanding David Foster Wallace

Marshall Boswell

A detailed approach to the fiction of a pioneer in modernism's third wave

Understanding David Foster Wallace guides readers through thoughtful examinations of Wallace's novels The Broom of the System and Infinite Jest and first two short story collections, Girl with Curious Hair and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. In his readings of these works, Marshall Boswell affirms that Wallace (1962–2008), in his fiction, compels our attention for the singular excellence of his work and his groundbreaking effort to chart a fruitful and affirmative new direction for literary fiction.

In addition to providing self-contained readings of each text, Boswell places Wallace within a trajectory of literary innovation that begins with James Joyce and continues through John Barth and Thomas Pynchon. Boswell contends that in charting a new course for literary practice, Wallace did not seek merely to overturn postmodernism or simply to return to modernism. Instead he moved resolutely forward with his fiction hoisting the baggage of modernism and postmodernism heavily, but respectfully, on its back.

Marshall Boswell is an associate professor of English at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of John Updike's Rabbit Tetralogy: Mastered Irony in Motion, the short story collection Trouble with Girls, and the novel Alternative Atlanta. Most recently he edited the fourth volume of Facts on File The Encyclopedia of American Literature.

"A valuable introduction to Wallace and his first four books. Boswell provides enlightening interpretations of much of the fiction, especially in his use of Wittgenstein in reading The Broom of the System and Lacan and Kierkegaard in reading Infinite Jest."—Review of Contemporary Fiction



book jacket for Understanding  David Foster Wallace


5 x 8
248 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-887-7
paperback, $21.95s

Understanding Contemporary American Literature
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