Death to!

I wanted to go back to talking about the Death of the author essay and what I believe is David Foster Wallace’s attempts to try and insert the author in his works. Death of the authir basically argues that the reader must “kill” the author in order to be able to interpret a literary work correctly. In this case, the reader must “kill” David Foster Wallace and ignore his characteristics- such as the author’s personal experiences, cultural background, ethnicity, etc. He must be killed off in order to understand the works. But what happens where the literary works are essays, in this case, about the character DAVID FOSTER WALLACE?

Well what is necessary to do is to recognize that the David Foster Wallace THE AUTHOR and David Foster Wallace the speaker are two different entities. It is mandatory to accept that their no DWB THE AUTHOR and that all that we may know about him -his college career, his vacations, jobs- it all is not important or should matter when we are reading these works. Instead, we should focus on DFW THE CHARACTER and his role in these essays. Such as “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” all we know about this DWB is what he tells us about himself such as his love of tennis and the accounts of what happened in the field, or in “Getting Away Already Being Pretty Much Awat from It All” and his accounts of the Illinois State fair.

Which reminds me of something a teacher once told me when reading works such as Othello. She said we can never assume anything happened before or after a work was written. Meaning that any assumptions about the work of events that happened before or after are not plausible because there is no “proof” to back it up. So for example in Othello, we get hints of an incestuous relationship between Othello and his mother but the reader would not be right to assume that this is a legit assumption since there is no before or after, just what is written in the play.

This brings me back to Wallace because in these essays, we cannot assume ideas in the works about the character DFW using the life of DFW the author. Even though we know the author and where he went to college, and where he was from, and interests, and countless other facts, these are unimportant, according to Barthes, in reading these works because they are not the same characteristics of the character.   We can’t say that the character is the same as the person who went to Amherst and majored in philosophy, etc because DFW the character is just the one written about in the number of pages of each essay.

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