The Progression of Postmodern Irony: Jennifer Egan, David Foster Wallace and the Rise of Post-Postmodern Authenticity
AbstractResponding directly to David Foster Wallace's call for a "new sincerity," Jennifer Egan in A Visit from the Goon Squad, finds a way to avoid the detrimental postmodern irony identified by Wallace and replace it with sincerity and authenticity in post-postmodern literature. This study looks at the connection between David Foster Wallace’s influential 20th century essay “E Unibus Pluram”, its co-published “Interview with Larry McCaffery” and its greater connection to Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. In her novel, Egan uses Wallace’s observations on late postmodern irony and television’s influence on fiction to craft a world that overcomes the ironic quagmire left by its predecessor. She connects herself with Wallace by creating the character of Jules Jones, a magazine writer who parodies his writing style and is searching for authenticity. At the end of the novel, she creates a linguistic dystopia which is able to cast off Wallace’s “E Unibus” notions of screen time and uses smartphone like devices to create a touchstone moment for a generation. These two scenes, Jules’ quest for authenticity and Scotty’s concert, are set many years apart to show the progression out of ironic looping into a post-postmodern authenticity. By understanding the mistakes in postmodernism, Egan can avoid incorporating them into post-postmodern literature and thus move fiction further past irony.
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