Narrative infinity in the encyclopedic novel: manipulations of Dante Alighieri's Divina commedia in David Foster Wallace's Infinite jest Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Higgins, Frances
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Comparative Literature Program
  • David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest includes an allusion to Dante's Divina Commedia that points the reader back to Dante's opening lines of Inferno. Dante's Commedia provides a framework for Wallace's own novel in that the allusion is not only an indication of Wallace's attempt to place himself with Dante in the literary category of the encyclopedic novel, but also a reminder to the reader of Infinite Jest's circular narrative structure. This structure, which Wallace borrows from Dante, relies on the resolution of the narrative embedded in the beginning sections. Wallace's gestures toward the medieval text serve as an ironic reinterpretation of stable allegory and they introduce the promise of truth only to disprove it later. In place of Dante's four-fold allegory, Wallace allows his characters to believe in the inherent stability of mathematics and the recovery methods of Alcoholics Anonymous but he ultimately undercut's the reliability of these systems.
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  • In Copyright
  • Wolfe, Jessica
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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