Existentialist Engagement in Wallace, Eggers and Foer: A Philosophical Analysis of Contemporary American Literature....pdf

Existentialist Engagement in Wallace, Eggers and Foer: A Philosophical Analysis of Contemporary American Literature....pdf


The novels of David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer are increasingly regarded as representing a new trend, an 'aesthetic sea change' in contemporary American literature. 'Post-postmodernism' and 'New Sincerity' are just two of the labels that have been attached to this trend. But what do these labels mean? What characterizes and connects these novels? Den Dulk shows that the connection between these works lies in their shared philosophical dimension. On the one hand, they portray excessive self-reflection and endless irony as the two main problems of contemporary Western life. On the other hand, the novels embody an attempt to overcome these problems: sincerity, reality-commitment and community are portrayed as the virtues needed to achieve a meaningful life. This shared philosophical dimension is analyzed by viewing the novels in light of the existentialist philosophies of S ren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Albert Camus.

One hears a great deal of flimsy talk about the 'new sincerity' in American literary fiction. In Existentialist Engagement in Wallace, Eggers, and Foer, Allard den Dulk transforms that flimsy talk into rigorous, methodical scholarship. Expanding on his already important work on David Foster Wallace and Soren Kierkegaard, den Dulk walks the reader through not only the key novels of his three primary fiction writers but also the foundational existentialist texts that inform these groundbreaking novels. In these lucid close readings, den Dulk demonstrates that Wallace and company aren't just trying to connect with readers; rather, they are conducting an informed and urgent existentialist critique of postmodernism and poststructuralism. Marshall Boswell, Professor and Chair of English, Rhodes College, USA, author of Understanding David Foster Wallace, and editor of David Foster Wallace and "The Long Thing" Existentialist Engagement in Wallace, Eggers and Foer is an intoxicating journey through the philosophical underpinnings in the fiction of David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, and Jonathan Safran Foer. With gusto, Allard Den Dulk steers the reader through a postmodern landscape of 'hyperreflexivity and endless irony.' Yet where we may expect a dull and easy acceptance of thrill-seeking nihilism, Den Dulk's conclusion is more passionate and surprising. Existentialist Engagement makes philosophy riveting again. This book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand 21st-century American fiction and who can stomach a thrilling ride. Diederik Oostdijk, Professor of English and American Literature, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands Allard den Dulk has written the best study I've read of the vexed intersection of sincerity, hyperreflexivity, and community in contemporary American fiction. Drawing on a sequence of unpublished interviews with Eggers, Foer, and Wallace, and matching those insights to a philosophically informed analysis, den Dulk gives us a powerful way to think about Wallace's legacy and the changing topography of the American novel. Stephen J. Burn, Reader in American Literature, University of Glasgow, UK Allard den Dulk's book is a thorough and insightful study of some of America's most influential contemporary novelists. Reading their work with great attention, Den Dulk rediscovers exitentialist philosophy as being more relevant than ever for the understanding of the world of today, as it is fathomed by Wallace, Eggers and Foer. A highly stimulating intellectual adventure. Ger Groot, Associate Professor of Philosophy of Culture and Philosophical Anthropology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Allard den Dulk is Lecturer in Philosophy, Literature and Film at Amsterdam University College, The Netherlands.

List of Abbreviations Acknowledgments Foreword Introduction 1. Aims and Method 2. An 'Aesthetic Sea-Change' in American Literature 3. Outline of Primary Literary Works 4. Heuristic Perspectives 5. Outline of the Study PART I PROBLEMS Chapter 1 - Hyperreflexivity Introduction 1. Factors of Heightened Contemporary Reflexivity 2. Sartre's View of Consciousness and Self-Reflection 3. The Alienation of Self-Reflection Conclusion Chapter 2 - Endless Irony Introduction 1. Irony as an Attitude towards Existence 2. Irony as Negative Independence 3. Endless 'Aesthetic' Irony 4. Meta-Irony Conclusion PROBLEMATIC FICTION Chapter 3 - Postmodernist Metafiction: John Barth Introduction 1. Metafiction 2. Deconstruction and Metafiction Conclusion Chapter 4 - Postmodernist Minimalism: Bret Easton Ellis Introduction 1. General Comparison 2. Four Aspects of the Escalation of Ironic-Aesthetic Existence 3. A Continuation of Reflexive Irony Conclusion PART II ENGAGED FICTION Chapter 5 - Wittgenstein and Wallace: The Meaning of Fiction Introduction 1. Wittgenstein: The Temptation of Essences 2. Wittgenstein: The Irrelevance of Essences 3. The Virtues of the Late-Wittgensteinian Language View 4. A Late-Wittgensteinian View of Fiction Conclusion ENGAGEMENT Chapter 6 - Sincerity Introduction 1. Sincerity vs. Authenticity 2. Sincerity: A Sartrean, Existentialist Ideal 3. Cases of Sincerity: The Fiction of Wallace, Eggers and Foer Conclusion Chapter 7 - Reality-Commitment Introduction 1. The Realization of Choice: Freedom, Despair, Urgency 2. The Reality of the Self as Gift and Task 3. Reality as Repetition Conclusion Chapter 8 - Community Introduction 1. Absurdity and Rebellion: Two Main Themes of Camus's Thought 2. The Role of the Other: Kierkegaard and Sartre vs. Camus 3. Discovering the Other: Wallace, Eggers and Foer 4. Towards a Dialogic Community of Meaning Conclusion Concluding Remarks 1. Literature and Philosophy 2. Existentialist Engagement 3. Love Me Till My Heart Stops? Works Cited


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