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Home News by Category Conferences DFW2015 - Report from Tony McMahon

DFW2015 - Report from Tony McMahon

Hi everyone, I'm back! The first of many updates over the next few days. First up, Tony McMahon's DFW2015 report.

(Part 1 here, btw: On the Road to DFW 2015)

Hi all,

It’s a pretty exhausted correspondent writing to you today from the main street of Normal, Illinois.

Outside the Normal theatre, where End of the Tour will be screening in about 20 minutes time. Past this gorgeous old movie house is The Marriot, where the conference took place today. Further down is Illinois State University, Wallace’s old stomping ground. According to Max’s biography, Wallace watched Jurassic Park here.

Heaps more after the break!


Random Images From Day 1


The hottest ticket in Normal.

Available exclusively at the conference, so I’m told. (Can anyone confirm if it has similar content to this? pdf)

Sideshow Media Group at the book fair.

The End of The Tour Conference Screening

Well, the verdict is in and it’s pretty much unanimous. Everyone that I’ve spoken to, without exception, has loved The End of the Tour. I feel enormously privileged to have seen it in the location I did: in the gorgeous Normal Theatre, surrounded by Wallace’s friends and colleagues.

The Q&A with director James Ponsoldt afterwards wasn’t half bad, either:

Everyone I spoke to, including those who knew Wallace, said that Jason Segel absolutely nailed the role. Jesse Eisenberg, as David Lipsky, was also excellent. The film as a whole just generally came across as fine cinema, and a not un-Wallacian meditation on a peculiarly American loneliness, something your correspondent has come to understand more and more over the last few days.

Selected Papers and Sessions from DFW2015

One of the most interesting things about the DFW15 for me so far has been how many of the subjects discussed at Infinite Wallace in Paris last September have come to fruition in Normal. In Paris, there was a call for a more feminist perspective on Wallace. Here at Normal, Danielle S. Ely  and Frances Romano presented superlatively interesting papers entitled ‘Women, the Resisting Readers of Infinite Jest’ and ‘Grotesque Gendering in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest’ respectively.

Queer theory was a much discussed exciting potential development in Wallace Studies during the Paris conference. At DFW15, Vincent Haddad presented a terrifically rich paper entitled ‘Conjuring David’s Ghost: Queer Intimacy from Whitman to Wallace’.

Of course, there were papers by superstar Wallace people such as David Hering and Mike Miley, both worth the 14-hour trans-Pacific flight on their own:

David Hering

Mike Miley

And talking of long flights, Australian Wallace scholars represented big time at DFW15. In the end, I think I counted six all up, one of who was a last minute cancellation, but still. Given there were only one or two Brits, it seems the cricket isn’t the only thing we’re going to thrash the poms at this year.

One of the really great things about this conference and one of its unique features is the round table discussion held the evening of the conference’s first night, moderated this year by keynote speaker Stephen J. Burn. Featuring ex-students of Wallace’s, as well as his ISU co-workers and a guy he played tennis with, this was a glaringly fun and heartbreakingly sad reflection on Wallace the person. A nice change from the concentration on his work and worth a trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic flight combined.

Talking of Stephen J. Burn, DFW15’s keynote was delivered by same. The subject, tantalisingly, was the upcoming publication of Wallace’s letters, which Burn is in the process of editing. It seems there is much more out there than just what the Ransom Centre has, and as Burn said, there will be enough to keep Wallace scholarship going for years. Exciting times. The only downside here is that Burn was, well, let’s just say fuzzy concerning a publication date. Probably fair enough given the volume of material he has to deal with. If he ever needs a research assistant, though, your humble correspondent would be more than keen…

On the Saturday morning, the conference moved from the Marriot to the Illinois State University campus itself for a kind of bonus session or two. Superstar Wallace scholars Mary J. Holland and Stephen J. Burn enthralled us all by talking about practical applications for teaching Wallace in the classroom.

There’s talk that this may be the last year this conference is held in Wallace’s hometown of Normal. As such, I’m extraordinarily glad I had the opportunity to participate while it was here. As its name suggests, Normal is about as close to ‘real’ America as it gets: super clean streets, wildly friendly people, pick up trucks and terrible coffee. Although Wallace was, of course, hardly a typical American, it says a lot about his work that so much of it was done here. Seeing the streets where he walked and the cafes in which he sat with his students to discuss their work has given me insights I probably won’t properly understand for some time yet. It’s a real shame that future conference participants might not be able to have the same thing happen to them.

-Tony McMahon



And Still More Links!

Huge thanks to Tony for his report. Sorry, I wasn't able to post the thoughts and pics sooner!

Last Updated on Monday, 22 June 2015 12:10  

The Howling Fantods