Although standard critical interpretation takes for granted that Wallace mostly managed to solve the problem of solipsism, thanks in part to his mobilization of Wittgenstein, I maintain that Wallace does not overcome the risk posed by its consequences. My aim in this chapter is therefore threefold. First, I argue that Wallace’s interest in the solipsistic position of the Tractatus and its pathological dramatisation in Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress is conditioned by a concern that is at once deep and existential, emphasising the close link between the reflective and ethical dimensions that, like Wittgenstein, Wallace experienced personally and interlaced in his narrative work. To do this, I will refer to both his review of Markson’s novel and the short story Suicide as a Sort of Present. Secondly, I maintain that, according to Wallace’s reading of Wittgenstein, the ‘discovery’ that language is something public articulated in the Philosophical Investigations did not eliminate the risk of solipsism. On the contrary, Wallace understood it to eliminate the possibility of contact with the outside world and leave us trapped in language, rather than in our private thoughts. This idea of language as both a ‘cage’ and a boundary between subject and world can be clearly discerned in Wallace’s first novel, The Broom of the System. Thirdly, I highlight the close connection in Wallace’s narrative work between solipsism as a metaphysical position and loneliness and alienation as existential drama. To do so, I will draw from some passages of Infinite Jest.

Baggio, G. (2022). Solipsism, loneliness, alienation: David Foster Wallace as interpreter of Wittgenstein. In P.M. Allard den Dulk (a cura di), Reading David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature (pp. 160-179). Manchester : Manchester University Press.

Solipsism, loneliness, alienation: David Foster Wallace as interpreter of Wittgenstein

guido baggio
2022

Abstract

Although standard critical interpretation takes for granted that Wallace mostly managed to solve the problem of solipsism, thanks in part to his mobilization of Wittgenstein, I maintain that Wallace does not overcome the risk posed by its consequences. My aim in this chapter is therefore threefold. First, I argue that Wallace’s interest in the solipsistic position of the Tractatus and its pathological dramatisation in Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress is conditioned by a concern that is at once deep and existential, emphasising the close link between the reflective and ethical dimensions that, like Wittgenstein, Wallace experienced personally and interlaced in his narrative work. To do this, I will refer to both his review of Markson’s novel and the short story Suicide as a Sort of Present. Secondly, I maintain that, according to Wallace’s reading of Wittgenstein, the ‘discovery’ that language is something public articulated in the Philosophical Investigations did not eliminate the risk of solipsism. On the contrary, Wallace understood it to eliminate the possibility of contact with the outside world and leave us trapped in language, rather than in our private thoughts. This idea of language as both a ‘cage’ and a boundary between subject and world can be clearly discerned in Wallace’s first novel, The Broom of the System. Thirdly, I highlight the close connection in Wallace’s narrative work between solipsism as a metaphysical position and loneliness and alienation as existential drama. To do so, I will draw from some passages of Infinite Jest.
9781526163547
Baggio, G. (2022). Solipsism, loneliness, alienation: David Foster Wallace as interpreter of Wittgenstein. In P.M. Allard den Dulk (a cura di), Reading David Foster Wallace between philosophy and literature (pp. 160-179). Manchester : Manchester University Press.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11590/423009
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