Your second midterm asks you to write a paper that uses research into the existing scholarship on the writing of David Foster Wallace in order to advance an argument about the meaning of some aspect of that writing. Your argument should be interpretive in orientation, meaning that it should argue for a particular way of reading or understanding the aspect of Wallace’s work with which you engage. The interpretation must be genuinely debatable, in that you must be able to imagine a classmate or another critic who plausibly holds a contrary interpretation, and you must use your analysis to convince them about why your interpretation is better. Thus, this argument needs to make excellent use of evidence, both found within the primary text and discovered in the process of your research into the existing criticism.
This research should begin with a thorough search of the MLA International Bibliography, available under “Databases” on the library home page. Do not start with JSTOR; JSTOR contains only a small fraction of literary studies journals, and often contains no issues more recent than two or three years ago. The MLA Bibliography is genuinely an index of all journals (and, in fact, many books) in literary studies, and the library’s implementation of the MLA Bibliography will link to available resources, if they’re online. But — as horrible as this may sound — in order to be thorough, you’re likely going to have to go look at some print journals. Yes, you may have to go to the library.*
For the purposes of this assignment, I want you to make significant use of the work of at least two scholars that you discover through your research. When I say “significant,” I mean that your use of these texts should not be incidental, meant solely to meet the terms of the assignment. Rather, your argument must genuinely build upon, engage, intervene in, or disagree with the interpretations of your predecessors. You should thus consider yourself to be entering into a scholarly conversation with the authors whose work you engage with, either building on their insights or indicating the gaps that their interpretations leave behind.
As with your first midterm, this paper should be 4-6 pages, double-spaced, and should adhere to MLA conventions for the citation of all quoted or paraphrased material. The paper should be turned in to your drop box on Sakai by 5 pm on Wednesday, April 8.
*Rest assured, however, that all this effort will not be in vain! Your final assignment, the DFW wiki, will begin with all of this research, so the more you do now, the less you’ll have to do later.