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.


Graham, Mark

Second Advisor

Grace, Nancy


Religious Studies; English


Comparative Methodologies and Theories | Literature in English, North America | Rhetoric

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2018 Nan Denette