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Discussion questions for ‘My Appearance’

Questions to ponder as you read this week's story.
cartoon of person with thought bubbles
  1. What are the different meanings of ‘appearance’ in the story?
  2. The driver’s head is ‘as still as a photo’. What is the relationship between reality and image in the story?
  3. How does ‘My Appearance’ handle the ‘behind the scenes’ of television sections? Does it present a ‘jeering, surfacey look “behind the scenes” of the very televisual front people already jeer at’, or does it succeed in making the ‘familiar strange’ (see ‘E Unibus Pluram’)?
  4. Does Edilyn or do Rudy and Ron have the more reliable perception, or does Wallace not allow us to decide? And what does your answer mean for understanding the story?
  5. ‘My empty ear did feel a bit violated.’ What role do the references to sexism and misogyny play in the story?
  6. Moving beyond reality: how does the story explore the self-reflexiveness of the postmodern TV world through the character of the husband and his perceptions?
  7. What kind of irony does DFW use?
  8. Having in part diagnosed the problems television creates, what kind of solution does Wallace posit in this story? Is sincerity a viable response?
  9. Looking back at Wallace’s responses in ‘E Unibus Pluram’ to TV’s postmodern co-opting of irony rendering critique of TV impossible, do you think ‘My Appearance’ falls in the spectrum of these suggested responses or does he return to a modern form of realism in the story?

If you want to watch this link from 2:30 to 6:11 you will see Wallace discussing TV with Leyner (mentioned in ‘E Unibus Pluram’) and Franzen.

This clip, from 9:07, is the interview on which ‘My Appearance’ is based:

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David Foster Wallace: Literature and Philosophy

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