This project analyzes the work of the author David Foster Wallace regarding how ideas of religion and spirituality inform and manifest in his writing. Two of Wallace’s most prominent works are examined in this project: his 1996 novel Infinite Jest and his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College, as well as corresponding materials to both works from Wallace’s archives at the University of Texas, Austin. From examining these texts using close reading and analysis as well as theories of both religion and narrative structure, I argue that Wallace’s engagement with religion and spirituality in his writing is a means of exploring the role of religion in an increasingly secular society dependent upon technology and entertainment. This project concludes that presences and interactions that are indicative of or informed by religion in Wallace’s work are often para-religious in nature, meaning that they are motivated by a human desire to interact with some kind of suprahuman power, but are ultimately fall short of delivering spiritual fulfillment that is characteristic of more traditional portrayals of religion in narrative.
Religious Studies; English
Denette, Nan, "“Everybody Worships”: Religious and Para-Religious Presences and Interactions in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest" (2018). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 8084.
Comparative Methodologies and Theories | Literature in English, North America | Rhetoric
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
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