Eschaton and English 102

I’m applying myself to Infinite Jest this fall, though not as diligently as some—I haven’t, for example, ripped my book in half and reconstructed two individual tomes complete with footnotes, and I didn’t start using multiple bookmarks until today, 336 pages in.

As everyone who’s ever written anything about Infinite Jest will apparently tell you, lots of people think of it as a doorstop, a brick of a novel. I happen to like these kinds of books, so it’s working for me.

But: this post is not actually about Infinite Jest. Instead, it’s (and only weakly—welcome to the first of my Iron Blogger contributions!) about David Foster Wallace’s syllabi, which are not at all brick-like, nor do they require multiple bookmarks to read.

Katie Roiphe writes in Slate:

One of the reasons I find his syllabi so fascinating is that they are not polished pieces of writing. They are relatively devoid of his stylistic rococo, and while obviously not devoid of his astonishing level of self-consciousness, do provide some slight glimpse into the person, without the baffling ingenious mediation of his art.

After spending the last few weeks elbow-deep in tennis and the rules of Eschaton (more on that below), DFW’s syllabi, which are available through the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, are a treat. See:

I am deadly-serious about creating a classroom environment where everyone feels free to ask or speak about anything she wishes. So any student who groans, smirks, mimes machine-gunning or onanism, chortles, eye-rolls, or in any way ridicules some other student’s in-class question/comment will be warned once in private and on the second offense will be kicked out of class and flunked, no matter what week it is.

Finally, as promised:

  • Erin

    wow. Glad to see lots of blog posts. I am now wondering what my syllabuses say about me.