Depth of Frame: “Capture” in the Works of David Foster Wallace
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CitationCowden, Christopher. 2020. Depth of Frame: “Capture” in the Works of David Foster Wallace. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractTelevision and language are two imperfect forms of communication that are recursively explored in the works of David Foster Wallace. Many critics have analyzed these two motifs as they function in the author’s works, however a decisive link between these two devices has yet to be fully established critically.
Critic David A. Kessler suggests that television’s dominance over its audience’s consciousness has created a disconnection with reality, as it did in Wallace’s own life. Kessler coins this disconnection, “capture”, and theorizes that it led to Wallace’s own disillusionment and eventual withdrawal from life.
In the thesis, I take this idea further by arguing that the capture television caused in Wallace’s own life can be meta-reflexively identified in the characters Neal (“Good Old Neon”), Julie (“Little Expressionless Animals”), and Chris Fogle (The Pale King). By close reading these short and long fictions paired with Wallace’s own criticism, treatises, and interviews, I investigate how television and language are used as imperfect forms of mediation, then assess the capture that supervenes as a result. Citing popular Wallace critics, I explore the evolution of these concepts over Wallace’s career as he strives to create a “New Sincerity”.
Wallace ultimately demonstrates that language and television create a capture in the lives of his characters that distorts their perception of reality, and thus an understanding and expression of the self. It is only by becoming aware of this capture – that is hidden in plain sight – that one can learn to transcend it.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365066