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Where to go next to explore Wallace.
Wallace laughing.

If you have enjoyed Wallace and want to explore further, here are our suggestions for the best places to start.

If you want to read Wallace’s own work, his magnum opus is Infinite Jest and more than repays reading and re-reading. Stephen J Burn has a very helpful guide: David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest: A Reader’s Guide (2nd edition), including a chronology of the novel. There’s a very persuasive explanation of the ending here:

Wallace’s other novels are The Broom of the System (which he regarded as his least successful work) and the unfinished The Pale King but we would suggest leaving those for later and jumping into Consider the Lobster or A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again for his essays, which display many of the virtues of his prose: funny, clever, thoughtful, varied.

Or, if you prefer to start with fiction, Girl With Curious Hair, his first collection, is amazingly varied in style and often very funny. Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is experimental but clever and funny and contains the amazing ‘Octet’. Oblivion is quite dark but also hilarious and has some outstanding stories.

Everything and More, his book on infinity and Signifying rappers are probably only for completists.

There’s a tremendous biography of Wallace by D T Max, with the superb title Every love story is a ghost story. David Lipsky’s Although of course you end up becoming yourself: a road trip with David Foster Wallace really captures something of Wallace’s voice and character, and was turned into the film The End of the Tour.

For more philosophical and literary works, Gesturing Toward Reality: David Foster Wallace and Philosophy edited by Robert K Bolger and Scott Korb, and The Cambridge Companion to David Foster Wallace edited by Ralph Clare are great places to start.

Allard Den Dulk’s website ( kindly has many of his papers on Wallace freely available and they are superb on the philosophical dimension of Wallace’s fiction.

Graham John Foster wrote one of the first PhD studies of Wallace, which is very helpful in setting Wallace in the context of American postmodern literature and is free to access here:

The Charlie Rose interview about TV and literature referred to in the email for week 2 is here:

There are quite a few other interviews of Wallace on youtube too.

For more general works exploring the relationship between literature and philosophy, a superb collection of essays is Love’s Knowledge by Martha Nussbaum (the titular essay alone is worth the price of entry). More introductory works include:

Ole Martin Skilleas, Philosophy and Literature: An Introduction Garry L Hagberg and Walter Jost (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature Richard Eldridge, The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature

Special mention should go to: Robert Pippin’s Henry James and Modern Moral Life, a fascinating piece of moral philosophy performed through literary criticism. Stanley Cavell’s Disowning Knowledge: In Seven Plays of Shakespeare is renowned for the extraordinary essay on King Lear. Colin McGinn’s Shakespeare’s Philosophy is also very well regarded. And Ewan Fernie, The Demonic: Literature and Experience is thought-provoking and wide-ranging.

For the existentialist influences on Wallace, the two best places to start (not least because they are brief!) are Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism.

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David Foster Wallace: Literature and Philosophy

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