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Watch the introduction to Week 6

Watch the video which provides an overview of the relationship between author and reader before we consider the story 'Octet'

When considering the place of the author in contemporary society, we could posit a spectrum between metafiction on the one hand, with its self-reflexivity and playfulness and the consequent impossibility of knowing the author’s opinion, and, on the other hand, a straightforward, clear communication of what an author thinks and feels. The latter is impossible in fiction, where an implied author, narrator and characters all interpose between author and reader.

A philosophy essay, with an overtly stated thesis, argument and conclusion, is perhaps the clearest form of transparent communication between author and reader. We saw in ‘This is Water’ and ‘Consider the Lobster’ that Wallace blends philosophy and the tools of fiction, to try to persuade readers of a conclusion but not by stating it up front; rather he sneaks up on them to avoid defensiveness and give the reader the opportunity to consider their thoughts and feelings. In the story, ‘Octet’ Wallace again blends philosophy and fiction, and tries to collapse the poles between metafiction and transparent communication. Put otherwise, he tries to use the postmodern tools of metafiction to communicate morally and openly with the reader.

We think ‘Octet’ is best approached with fresh eyes, so we’ll say no more here. Once you’ve read it and shared your thoughts in the discussion, you can read some of our reflections.

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David Foster Wallace: Literature and Philosophy

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