Update: I'm all packed. Heading to Melbourne on Saturday for the meetup and to see this panel on Monday!
I can't wait for the 30th of November because I'll be in Melbourne to attend the ‘Ghost Stories, Love Stories, New Stories: Reconfiguring David Foster Wallace for the Australian Academy’ panel at the AAWP 2015 Conference - Writing the ghost train | Rewriting, remaking, rediscovering (Draft conference program here).
E2 Ghost stories, love stories, new stories—reconfiguring David Foster Wallace for the Australian Academy: Tony McMahon with Joshua Barnes, Mitch Cunningham, Matilda Douglas-Henry and Jonathan Laskovsky. Moderator: Tony McMahon
Across the last two decades, the oeuvre of the American writer David Foster Wallace (1962 – 2008) has attracted significant attention in both academic and mainstream cultural circles; unique to Wallace, though, is the degree to which these two spheres overlap. Readers of Wallace’s literary work also consume scholarly assessments of it, providing a large, diverse audience for such criticism. Adam Kelly has written that, in contrast to the critical discourse on James Joyce, for example, ‘where the keys to understanding are presumed to be held by professional scholars’, the formal study of Wallace’s work ‘has begun in a more democratic vein’. While this is largely due to the influence of the Internet as a social technology, it also reflects the deep analytical and creative connections between Wallace’s texts and their readers.
Consequently, Wallace Studies has rapidly emerged as a coherent research discipline, with its own tenets, tropes and dogmas. Following his death and the publication of posthumous texts such as The Pale King (2011) and Both Flesh and Not (2012), as well as D.T. Max’s biography Every Love Story is a Ghost Story (2012), the academic pursuit of Wallace’s writing has seemed to approach consensus on matters of aesthetics, poetics and canonicity. There are, however, meaningful problems that still require attention.
The panel responds to this need by providing a new context for the critical reading of Wallace. Through the assessment of existing discourse, it clears the ground for a refined theorisation of Wallace’s literary corpus. The panel will feature a mix of emerging and established scholars, each of whom will present rigorous new approaches to Wallace and Wallace Studies: Tony McMahon will argue for the academic consideration of Wallace within Australian academic discourse; Mitch Cunningham confronts the ambiguous subject of the ‘reader’ in Wallace’s texts; Matilda Douglas-Henry (re)reads Infinite Jest as a queer allegory, while Jonathan Laskovsky assesses the construction of fictional space in that novel; finally, Joshua Barnes’ attempts to theorise the comedic techniques employed by Wallace throughout his work.
Emphasising the creative importance of retransmitting stories through teaching and learning, the panel will comprise teachers and students—from undergraduate to PhD—each responding to the theme of ‘writing the ghost train’ by focusing on the representation of Wallace’s work to new readers, contexts and generations. Furthermore, the panel will explicitly discuss thematic stream four, ‘Refashioning the self’, with Wallace’s literary project providing the ideal environment in which to explore the effects of reconfiguring texts, retelling stories and the process of canon formation.
Tony McMahon (moderator): Introduction: Why Wallace and Australia?
Mitch Cunningham: ‘Performing the fiction-writer’s reader: Reading the transference in David Foster Wallace’
Matilda Douglas-Henry: ‘“The Man Who Knows His Limitations Has None”: The homoeroticism in Infinite Jest’
Jonathan Laskovsky: ‘Spaces of open constraint in Infinite Jest’
Joshua Barnes: ‘David Foster Wallace, comedian: towards an aesthetics of funniness’
...and I'm hearing rumblings about an Australian DFW conference for 2016... would you be keen to join us if it got off the ground?