Fall 2021

21L.320 Big Books: DFW@MIT: Infinite Jest Noel Jackson MW 1:00-2:30p 66-156

Prereq: none
2-0-4 Can be repeated for credit
Topics: Thinks about Popular Culture

(Ends Oct. 15th) David Foster Wallace’s 1996 novel Infinite Jest is a “Big Book” in a number of senses. One of the masterpieces of postmodern American fiction, the novel is regularly found on best-of lists for the last quarter or half century. It is a novel of colossal proportions and equally massive ambitions, with a large cast of characters and frequently shifting perspectives and times. Infinite Jest is a novel whose maximalism, overwhelming at times, reflects the enormity and chaos of the world it describes. Both clear-eyed and fabulist, probing and problematic, the novel addresses geopolitical conflict, ecological crisis, information overload, postirony, addiction and recovery, and more.

Infinite Jest is placed in a number of settings, but much of its action takes place in the greater Boston area. Some of the local sites DFW describes are now gone, some are imaginary or partly imagined, and many are still around, including some landmarks on the MIT campus. Students will have the opportunity to generate site-specific readings through exploratory trips into the community and/or virtual mapping of the novel.