This blog’s genesis is a school project in which we (the students in the class) were asked to think about the nature of fiction and non-fiction and where the future of each might lie. The syllabus for the course (English 535: Anthologies, Manifestos & Subversions) reads in part: “Nonfiction is an intriguing literary animal—it has overtaken fiction in popularity, yet remains an undercriticized literary form. There is a paucity of sustained nonfiction criticism after a burst of activity around 1989-90”. The implication here is that non-fiction is problematic in that it is sold as a literary genre, but is critiqued with few agreed upon literary generic conventions. The syllabus goes on to say, “Many aesthetic declarations and arguments in nonfiction take place in the form of anthologies, with the tacit declarations of aesthetics implicit in the process of choice, and with the statements made openly in anthology introductions and other textual matter”. While these ‘tacit declarations’ help to offer a consensus view of the state of the essay and the operations of non-fiction, they don’t do much in the way of codifying a cogent and workable set of generic conventions, even when taken in aggregate. For instance, why is non-fiction defined by what it isn’t? If it is not fiction, does that make it truthful, or is the suggestion then that it operates as a form reality and if we can have a ‘form’ of reality, what does that mean?
|Photograph by Steve Rhodes under Creative Commons license. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_Foster_Wallace.jpg|
So, in response to these issues, this blog postulates (mostly for fun) the idea that David Foster Wallace offers a new way in which to view ‘non-fiction’ (the scare quotes here to suggest that I don’t have, nor will I postulate a definition for this term) and indeed many new forms of creation from music to literature to architecture et al. This blog will explore David Foster Wallace’s essay “E Unibus Pluram” in order to set up what I am calling “Radical Literalism” as a mode of thought pioneered by Wallace. Following this will be a series of what I hope are fun and enlightening readings of various artistic endeavors through a Wallacian lens.