David Foster Wallace and Disability

Sloane, Peter (2021) David Foster Wallace and Disability. In: David Foster Wallace in Context. Cambridge University Press. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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23 - DFW in Context Chapter Final Submission .docx
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23 - DFW in Context Chapter Final Submission .docx
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Abstract

In this chapter, I approach Wallace’s engagement with physical and cognitive disability with this concept in mind, to argue that he is not so much a writer of the grotesque as he is a humanist who figures disability and the disabled person as opportunities to ‘forge’ sincere interpersonal relations both between characters and between character and reader. In some ways this means appropriating the disabled body as what David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder describe as an ‘opportunistic metaphorical device’, a common tendency for the able bodied writer. Yet, Wallace also gives voice to the socially and culturally excluded, partially, as I suggest below, because he does not experience the ‘aesthetic nervousness’ which Ato Quayson sees as endemic to literature, an anxiety that arises because ‘the dominant protocols of representation within the literary text are short-circuited in relation to disability’. Wallace however deals equally with the abled and disabled, making a virtue of an apparent insensitivity which is, ultimately, perversely inclusive, leaving no outliers.

Keywords:disabled, contemporary literature, postmodernism
Subjects:T Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian Languages, Literature and related subjects > T720 American Literature studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:43825
Deposited On:18 Feb 2021 12:35

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