The Divided Selves of David Foster Wallace



This paper attempts to provide a new reading of the works of David Foster Wallace.Wallace, as a writer and as a person, is susceptible to readings which focus on mindand mental states, and whilst this is appropriate and effective, it also leads to what Ipropose is Wallace’s main interest being overlooked. That interest can be summed up by the question: what is it like to have, and to be, a body that both is and is not us? Persons have bodies, and bodies are, in a very real way, agents; they are composites of drives and response mechanisms, and these may not always be in accord with our thoughts about ourselves. This paper demonstrates the presence of extraordinary bodies in Wallace’s works, and argues that Wallace considered the body to be a useful means of investigating the metaphysical aspects of ‘being’. The paper explores this via a brief overview of Wallace’s early works, before moving on to a reading of Hal from Infinite Jest (1996), and David Cusk from The Pale King (2011).


Embodiment, The Body, The Pale King, Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

How to Cite

Sloane, P., (2014) “The Divided Selves of David Foster Wallace”, Tropos 1(1).







Peter Sloane (University of Bristol)




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