David Foster Wallace is one of the most highly regarded novelists of contemporary literature. His novel Infinite Jest is regarded as one of the most important works in contemporary literature. It’s worth noting that this masterpiece was a product of the truly prodigious output of one of America’s finest authors. Through his novels, his short stories, and his nonfiction essays, Wallace has provided us an enduring reflection of our society. Through his teaching, he demanded a rigorous and heartfelt approach to writing, pushing his students to use language to express the inexpressible. He could be as unforgiving as he was hilarious, as dark as he was endearing.
It is clear from interviews and conversations with those who knew him that Wallace himself was uncomfortable with the attention that fame brought him. There is an acknowledged irony to hosting a three-day conference dedicated to his memory. We might imagine that he would have climbed the nearest hill to avoid us, preferring the blue sky isolation of the single lonely hill in Normal, Illinois, to the coffee-flavored halitosis of his most ardent fans.
On the other hand, I find it more likely that he would have attended the conference – his face conveniently obscured under a rather life-like form-fitting polybutylene-resin mask(1) – in order to write about us. He would have described our efforts and our foibles as we seek – ever imperfectly – to better understand what it means to write and to exist.
The DFW conference remains dedicated to Wallace’s memory and his legacy, and we are very thankful for everyone who has supported our efforts. Please enjoy the conference, and let us know of any suggestions for how we can make it better.
Ph.D. Candidate, English Studies
Chair, DFW Conference
1) The DFW Conference homepage would be incomplete without a footnoted reference to Infinite Jest, page 148.